Saturday, May 11, 2013

Thin Yet Thick: Night

Elie Wiesel
115 pages

{Thin Yet Thick reads might be short in page length - 200 pages or less - but are thick and deep in meaning.}

In his memoir, winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, Elie Wiesel describes his terrifying experiences in the concentration camps of World War II. Born in Sighet, Transylvania (present-day Hungary) Wiesel was taken along with his family in 1944 to Auschwitz, and then later on to Buchenwald with his father. As a teenager, Wiesel's faith was put to the ultimate test as he witnessed and suffered from the in-humane experiences which must never be allowed to happen again.

Wiesel's writing style throughout the book is very consistent, and purposeful. Maybe it is part of the translation, but his sentences are simple and short, giving the voice of the story a sharp and impactful feeling. This writing style also leaves the reader feeling as if they have been told everything. Night is raw and real, unabashed and unabridged. It shows his reconfirmed trust in the human race, although it had dwindled to little during the many months he spent in suffering. He wrote, "How was it possible that...the world kept silent?"

Throughout this powerful story, there are so many distinct moments that might make the reader cry, but for me, it was not a specific event that had a tear rolling down my cheek. There is this horrible paradox to Wiesel's story: "...a convoy of cattle cars was waiting. The Hungarian police made us climb into the cars, eighty persons in each one. The lucky ones found themselves near a window; they could watch the blooming countryside flit by." Lines like these got me every time, as it was so horrific to realize the contrast between the dark, dirty confines of the cattle cars or the concentration camps, and the sun shining in a bluebird sky above.

I tried to capture that image in the photo above, to show that although this might be a dark and sorrowful story, light still peeps in around the edges, showing the initial optimism and hope of the Jewish people. In his Nobel Peace Prize Speech, Wiesel concluded by saying, "Thank you, people of Norway, for declaring on this singular occasion that our survival has meaning for mankind." So in the end, something beautiful did come out of the Holocaust - the survivors. They were like the grass and the dandelions, a simple beauty, finally being noticed.