Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review :: Day by Elie Wiesel Part One

Day is a powerful, haunting book. It is NOT, to say the least, a light read. Life is presented, at times, in its ugliest form-no sugar coating here. This bleak tale is full of poetic, descriptive language. Here are two examples: "I closed my eyes. Suddenly I became conscious of the pain that was torturing me. I had not realized it before. And yet the suffering was there. It was the air I was breathing, the words forming in my brain, the cast that covered my body like a flaming skin." "I still had a desire to leave. But why run away? And where to? The desert is the same everywhere. Souls die in it. And sometimes they play at killing the souls that are not yet dead."
   Day appears to be a thinly-veiled autobiography, like an addendum to his explicitly autobiographical Night. He admits in the preface that the main character and he share similar life circumstances. They even share a name. Eliezer (the character) is a sick man, full of disgust and rage directed toward existence itself. He is unable to forgive. The question arises, Is this Wiesel, or does he put forward the darkest aspects of himself as a form of catharsis?
   Here is a quote from Night: "But now, I no longer pleaded for anything. I was no longer able to lament. On the contrary, I felt very strong. I was the accuser, God the accused. My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God, without man. Without love or mercy. I was nothing but ashes now, but I felt myself to be stronger than this Almighty to whom my life had been bound for so long." This haughtiness is echoed in Day: "I felt very calm, completely controlled. If I had searched further I might have discovered that my calm also hid the satisfaction, the strange joy-or was it simply humor?-that comes from the knowledge of one's own strength, at one's own solitude." He continues the theme of condemning God as well: "Suddenly she turned her darkened eyes toward me: God was still in them. The God of chaos and impotence. The God who tortures twelve-year old children." "Why should God be allied with death? Why7 should He want to kill a man who succeeded in seeing Him? Now, everything became clear. God was ashamed." These last quote are taken from a portion of the book that is particularly hard to read, the story of Sarah, a prostitute who was violated as a 12-year old in a concentration camp. She repeatedly makes reference to men's affinities for 12-year olds. One can almost picture this hollow, tortured creature as she states simply and emphatically: "Men like to make love to women who are twelve" Why does he include this anecdote about Sarah when it adds nothing to the story? Perhaps only to shore up his case against God (against Life).

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