Saturday, October 11, 2008

Brain Snacks: Night by Elie Wiesel

I voraciously "eat" my way through books... so thought I'd add some particularly good ones as well under the category Brain Snacks starting with a thin one that packs a powerful impression...

Night By Elie Wiesel

It all started when I was channel surfing and happened on Oprah's show where she was talking to this tiny old man - Elie Wiesel, who had survived the holocaust and also received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996. Having been to the Anne Frank museum (and read her diary too) in Amsterdam and another similar memorial centre in Berlin, these pieces of information were stored in my mind as a historical event - something that for me was years/miles away and surrounded in surreality. But hearing Wiesel speak of his personal experiences and horrors at the hands of the Nazis, something clicked - it was all real. Not something that was part of a movie or story but something that had truly happened to people whose lives became living nightmares. Needless to say, I spent the better part of two weekends scouring bookstores in search of this book.

Night is the first out of trilogy (the other two are Dawn and Day) written by Wiesel on his life during and after the Nazi era. He leaves out the flowery language used by many similar authors and provides a stark, painfully raw experience of life in a concentration camp and the Holocaust. In just 109 pages, Wiesel imprints images and questions that by the end of it all, the "injustices" most of us moan about daily are seemingly trivial."Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me for all eternity the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust."

I felt tears flowing freely at that moment when this once deeply religious young Jewish teenager questions the existence of God as a child with an angelic face is left hanging in the middle of a courtyard. And just when you hope that there will be a "happy ending" once they are released from Buchenwald camp, you realise in the last few pages that it is living corpses that are being liberated - alive but with horrors imprinted so deeply into their souls. I shan't go into detail about the rest of the book as I believe its one you should read and experience on your own terms.

(On a personal rant)
It struck me that in the current political and racial situation in my country, we still have many blessings to be thankful for. The minorities who frequently complain and put on woe begone laments about being "oppressed" might want to take a rain check on what really being oppressed means. We're not dragged to concentration camps, mass murdered or seperated from our families. In comparison, we're still allowed to have the freedom to practice our own cultures and religions here, the opportunity for educations and good jobs, freedom to own properties. It sickens me at times how politicians have made the race issue political pawns, stoking the "rakyats".

Having said that though, there are many grave atrocities, discrimination (against GLBTs, PWLHAs, Gender etc) and genocides still being practiced worldwide and I guess Wiesel puts it best -
"To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the brain snacks addition! - Shankini