Page 69 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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FINE / WIESEL’S LITERARY LEGACY
63
Buchenwald and sets ou t the next day to find him, it is with ambiv­
alent feelings. His fa the r has become*a “dead weight,” an obstacle
to his own struggle for survival. After his fa the r dies, the youth
experiences a sense o f relief. He cannot weep and from the
dep ths o f his weakened conscience, he feels “something like —
free at last!” T he pro tec to r has been transfo rm ed into a betrayer
and must live with tha t guilt for the rest o f his life. The son cannot
even respond to his fa the r’s last words — an u tterance o f his
name, “Eliezer” — twice evoked before the dying man is perm a­
nently silenced by the club o f an SS guard in the squalid barracks
f Buchenwald.
URTHER DEVELOPMENT
Wiesel turns from the autobiographical mode to the fictive in
awn
(1960) and
The Accident
(1961)
[LeJour
o r
“Day”
in French],
he two succeeding novels which form a trilogy along with
Night.
Both protagonists in these books are survivors tormen ted by the
olitude o f post-Holocaust existence. Elisha, the victim-turned-
xecutioner o f
Dawn,
and the nameless n a r ra to r o f
The Accident
ho attempts suicide are Lazarus-like figures who have emerged
rom the grave bu t are not yet resurrected . Alienated, psychically
umbed, filled with self-hatred, they yearn to jo in the dead with
hom they identify. T he ir voices have been smothered by Holo­
aust flames and they have been transform ed into living ghosts
ho can barely whisper. They are still too close to the past to be
ble to speak o f it.
I f the survivor-protagonists are not yet capable o f assuming the
ole o f witness, the theme nevertheless presents itself th rough the
ather-son motif. Whe ther consciously o r unconsciously, in
Dawn
iesel has created fictional characters who relive the ambiguities
f the father-son relationship
in Night.
I f Eliezer feels responsible
or having let his fa ther die, then for having “stolen life” from him
y surviving in his place, Elisha actually become the m u rd e re r o f a
a ther figure, thus carrying the son’s unconscious dea th wishes
nd guilt feelings to the extreme.
Elisha leaves his cell-like room in Paris to jo in the Jewish resist­
nce movement in Palestine fighting to establish a Jewish home­
and. When assigned to kill John Dawson, a British officer held
ostage in retaliation for the British cap tu re o f a Jewish leader,
lisha struggles against this awesome task — the authority o f