Night by Elie Wiesel
Do indulge me in one pooterish paragraph, so that I may venture to speak about...ahem...atmospheric conditions. Spring has brushed the hem of her skirt across Krakow and stirred the earth, revealing crocuses. I saw blooming crocuses today, which made me almost dizzy with delight. It was very warm--the warmest day we've had so far--but I remember with perfect recall that there was not a single day in March last year during which which the temperature rose even 1 degree above freezing for even the merest fraction of a second. Snow and ice reigned supreme, and spring, when she finally came, crept in late and bedraggled. But this year, on March 7, we have crocuses!
Okay, paragraph over. I'll to move on to something profound now, although I'm not sure anything is more profound than the first blooms of spring.
I didn't mean to read Elie Wiesel's Night in one day, within 24 hours of receiving it in the mail, but that's what I did. I have mentioned before that I am fascinated by holocaust survivor stories--those individuals who lived through the worst of the worst that anyone could imagine and retained their spirit and humanity, and went on to live productive, even happy lives.
In some ways, I wish that I had read this book some other year, and not this year, when I have a 16 year old son. As Wiesel relates, almost dispassionately, the horrors of his holocaust experience, I kept thinking that he was the same age as J. when he went through all that.
One of the most poignant segments of the book relates his shame and grief he feels in connection with his father. He saw other sons negect, abandon, and even abuse their fathers as they succumbed to hunger themselves. He did not want that to happen to him--he did not want to be tested for fear he would fail the test--and when he did lose his father, his shame at feeling relief (because it was such a burden to try to care for his father in the conditions they were in) was as great as any grief he felt. And I thought of my son. But they were all somebody's sons.
If you have never read holocaust stories, this isn't a bad first choice, because it is short and somewhat detached in tone. It might be easier to bear than some of the other stories I've read. I've been to Auschwitz, and will probably go again sometime, and when I do, I know that Elie Wiesel's voice will join the other voices in my head, saying "Remember us, remember us." I'm glad books like this are still in print.