Elie Wiesel


Elie Wiesel
(1928)



Romanian-born American novelist whose works provide a sober yet passionate testament of the destruction of European Jewry during World War II. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986.
Wiesel's early life, spent in a small Hasidic community in the town of Sighet, was a rather hermetic existence of prayer and contemplation and was barely touched by the war. But in 1944 all the Jews of the town (annexed by Hungary in 1940), including Wiesel and the other members of his family, were deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz, where his mother and younger sister were killed. He was then sent as a slave labourer to Buchenwald, where his father was killed. After the war he settled in France, studied at the Sorbonne (1948-51), and wrote for French and Israeli newspapers. Wiesel went to the United States in 1956 and was naturalized in 1963. He was a professor at City College of New York (1972-76) and from 1976 was a professor of humanities at Boston University.

During his time as a journalist in France, he was urged by the novelist Francois Mauriac to bear witness to what he had experienced in the concentration camps. The outcome was Wiesel's first book, in Yiddish, Un Di Velt Hot Geshvign (1956; "And the World Has Remained Silent"), abridged as La Nuit (1958; Night), a semiautobiographical account of a young boy's spiritual reaction to Auschwitz. It is considered by some critics to be the most powerful literary expression of the Holocaust. His other works include La Ville de la chance (1962; The Town Beyond the Wall), a novel examining human apathy; Le Mendiant de Jerusalem (1968; A Beggar in Jerusalem), which raises the philosophical question of why people kill; Celebration hassidique (1972; Souls on Fire), a critically acclaimed collection of Hasidic tales; Le Testament d'un poete juif assassine (1980; The Testament); Le Cinquieme fils (1983; The Fifth Son); Le Crepuscule, au loin (1987; Twilight); and L'Oublie (1989; The Forgotten).

All Wiesel's works reflect, in some manner, his experiences as a survivor of the Holocaust and his attempt to resolve the ethical torment of why the Holocaust happened and what it revealed about human nature. He became a noted lecturer on the sufferings experienced by Jews and others during the Holocaust, and his ability to transform this personal concern into a universal condemnation of all violence, hatred, and oppression was largely responsible for his being awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.


BIBLIOGRAPHY.
Ellen Norman Stern, Elie Wiesel: Witness for Life (1982), is a biography. Among many critical works on Wiesel's writings are Michael Berenbaum, The Vision of the Void: Theological Reflections on the Works of Elie Wiesel (1979, reissued as Elie Wiesel: God, the Holocaust, and the Children of Israel, 1994); Ted L. Estess, Elie Wiesel (1980); Ellen S. Fine, Legacy of Night: The Literary Universe of Elie Wiesel (1982); Robert McAfee Brown, Elie Wiesel: Messenger to All Humanity, rev. ed. (1989); and Carol Rittner (ed.), Elie Wiesel: Between Memory and Hope (1990).


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