Page 67 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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INE / WIESEL’S LITERARY LEGACY
61
nbu r ied ” (.
Legends of Our Time)
and the book, therefo re is the
u th o r ’s means o f bring ing back to life the vanished
shtetl
inhab ­
ted by its masters and madmen , its rabbis and poets. Elie Wiesel’s
ords are his monumen ts engraved on the prin ted page. They
re also his prayers, taking on religious and sacred p roportions as
hey link the p resen t to the past.
As a writer and a Jew, and Wiesel does not separate the two, he
akes upon himself the collective memory o f the Jewish people.
is “I ” expands to “we,” transcending itself to include the Jewish
eritage experience from the beginning to the present. From
ithin Wiesel’s Jewish experience he explores the human
ondition, protesting genocide in such countries as Cambodia,
iafra and Paraguay. He rejects the notion o f ar t for a r t’s sake,
nd has stated tha t to be a writer is to Fight suffering, to correct
njustice, “to disturb, to warn, to question by questioning onese lf’
A
Jew Today).
L itera ture for Wiesel is testimony which should not
ppease or en tertain the reader, bu t awaken him or h er from
ndifference. He sees himself primarily as witness whose moral
nd ethical obligation as a Jew is to be the “conscience o f history.”
he ther he writes tales o f the Holocaust such as
Legends of Our
ime,
o r hasidic tales such as
Souls on Fire
and
Somewhere a Master,
r biblical portraits seen in light o f the Holocaust,
Messengers of
od,
his writings all manifest a deep comm itment to humanity
nd to the preservation o f memory.
EARING WITNESS
Wiesel has transposed his mission to testify on to his fictional
haracters who are often survivors in search o f a voice. In work­
g ou t his own vocation th roughou t the years, he has created a
ew kind o f protagonist, the protagonist as witness — paradigm
f ou r post-Holocaust era. His first book,
Night,
constitutes the
en ter a round which subsequent works form concentric circles.
lthough written ten years after the event, the voice o f the fifteen
ear-old n arra to r , Eliezer, conveys a sense o f immediacy and
uthenticity. In a straightforward m anner the young boy
counts the dark passage from his Eastern European
shtetl
to
univers concentrationnaire
which seemed to take place in one
ngle night. His perception and articulation o f the experience as
takes place before his eyes makes Eliezer truly a witness, lacking