Author: Elie Wiesel
Genre: Memoir/Personal Narrative
Publication Date: 1960
Night Literary Guide
Night (1960), written by Elie Wiesel, captures his experiences during the Holocaust that he and his family endured at Nazi concentration camps—primarily the notorious camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald—between 1944 and 1945. Wiesel, who had never left the small Romanian village of Sighet where he was born, entered the camp at the age of 14 and endured the trauma of a Nazi camp and the death of his parents and sister. More than the horrific conditions that prisoners had to endure in the camp, Night also provides a disturbing insight into the breakdown of humanity and the loss of faith in God. The writing captures the ebbing away of hope and life and being trapped in a never-ending “night,” from which the book derives its name.
Wiesel was rescued from Buchenwald by the United States Army at the age of 16, after which he moved to Paris. There are different accounts of when Wiesel chose to document his experience during the Holocaust as he had initially vowed never to speak of it. In the “Preface to the New Translation,” (2006) Wiesel confessed to his helplessness in describing the horrors of the Holocaust, of the insane atrocities conducted by the monstrous war machine of Hitler, but he stated that his intention of writing this book was clear—to convey to the world what had transpired during the Holocaust. So, though the trauma of Auschwitz could never be translated into words, Wiesel knew that he had to try. Hence, he persisted with his writing along with the continuous efforts of his patron, Francois Mauriac, who encouraged him to speak for the survivors of the Holocaust. In 1956, Wiesel published Un di Velt Hot Geshvign (Yiddish for And the World Remained Silent), an 800-page account of his life during the Holocaust. This humanistic documentary was then translated from the original Yiddish into French and further trimmed down to a manuscript one-eighth in size of the original that became an intense, hard-hitting, first-person account of his incarceration by the Nazi SS. The French work titled La Nuit was published in 1958, dedicated to his parents and his little sister. The work was further translated into English and published in 1960 as Night.
Night is the first of a trilogy, followed by Dawn and Day, which completes Wiesel’s transition in life from a position of darkness to light and subsequent life after the Holocaust. When Night was first published, it sold poorly. Jews often refrained from talking about the Holocaust, as they didn’t want to relive the trauma. There were Holocaust deniers too across the world. Today, the world is more aware, and Holocaust literature is widely read and researched. Since its publication, Night has been translated into 30 different languages and is considered a landmark contribution to Holocaust literature.
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