Monday, January 16, 2006

Books: Oprah picks wisely -- Wiesel's Night

Synopsis lifted from Wikipedia:

Night is an autobiographical novella by Elie Wiesel based on his experience, as a young Jew, of being deported from the village of Sighet in Transylvania to the German death camp at Auschwitz, and later to the concentration camp at Buchenwald.

Wiesel was 17 years old when Buchenwald was liberated on April 11, 1945 by the Sixth Armored Division of the U.S. Third Army. For ten years, having lost his faith in God and humanity, he kept his story to himself and contemplated suicide. During a meeting in Paris in May 1955, Fran├žois Mauriac, the French novelist and Nobel laureate, persuaded Wiesel to start writing, but even with Mauriac's connections, no publisher was willing to handle Wiesel's original 900-page Yiddish draft. It was too morbid, they told him; no one would read it. [4]

Eventually a publisher in Argentina agreed to publish it as Un di Velt Hot Geshvign (And the World was Silent), then in 1958, a small French publisher released a 127-page French translation called La Nuit. The first English translation was published in the United States in 1960, earning Wiesel an advance of $100 and selling just 1,046 copies in 18 months.

Forty-five years later, now translated into 30 languages, Night ranks alongside Primo Levi's If This is a Man and Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl as one of the bedrocks of Holocaust literature, and possibly its most powerful description of humiliation and despair.

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