Page 70 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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JEW ISH BOOK ANNUAL
dealing death. For the first and perhaps only time in Wiesel’s
writing, the protagonist is portrayed as an executioner, bu t an
executioner who is clearly more oppressed than his victim.
Anguished by the role imposed upon him, Elisha resists the act
o f killing which violates one o f the major precepts o f Juda ism . He
identifies with Dawson and wants to die in his place. When he
en ters the basement cell before dawn where the hostage is
awaiting execution, he has the distinct impression tha t he is going
to his own death. He feels an unmistakable kinship with this man
he has ju s t met. At the end o f the narrative, Dawson makes a com­
parison between Elisha and his son who is about the same age,
suggesting a father-son tie between the victim and his execu­
tioner. When Elisha finally pulls the trigger and the bullet pierces
the hea rt o f the British officer, Dawson’s last word is “Elisha”
which he repeats twice, recalling the invocation o f Eliezer’s name
twice in
Night
by his dying father. In both instances the fa the r calls
ou t fo r help and the son is unable to respond .
Elisha desperately desires to change the course o f events, “to
reo rd e r the whole o f creation ,” bu t feels powerless to do so.
However, if he cannot substitute himself for the fa ther surroga te ,
he nonetheless becomes a messenger for him. Before he is about
to die, Dawson asks Elisha for some pape r and pencil to write a
note to his son. Elisha, significantly, gives him his whole notebook
and promises to transm it this legacy to his heir, thus serving as a
le tter carrier, a “messenger o f the dead ,” assuring the continuity
between generations.
T h e na r ra to r o f
The Accident
also sees himself as “a messenger
o f the dead among the living.” Hovering between life and dea th
in a hospital room du r ing the entire course o f the narrative, he
rejects the effo rt o f Dr. Russel, his surgeon and Gyula, his artist
friend , to resuscitate his will to survive. T h e dom inan t mood in
this most negative novel is one o f despair. One o f the few positive
signs reveals itself when the na r ra to r discovers tha t he still has the
power o f speech. Bound in bandages, paralyzed, his feverish
th roa t parched with thirst, he realizes tha t he has the capacity and
the need to speak aloud, to articulate though ts longtime unsaid.
He knows that his words disturb and th rea ten the listener: “My
legends can only be told at dusk. Whoever listens questions his
life. . . . The heroes o f my legends are crue l and w ithout pity.
They are capable o f strangling you.” T he voice tha t the Lazarene
n a r ra to r reclaims af te r his second encoun te r with dea th , is filled