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First Published inElie Wiesel Cons the World
How true to life is Wiesel's
description of Buchenwald in Night?
By Carolyn Yeager
Ken Waltzer wrote in his comment on this blog on June 27th:
"More important, Elie Wiesel's commentary in Night bears fairly close resemblance to the actual experiences he had at Buchenwald-as recorded in camp documents." (my italics)
What are we to make of the words "fairly close resemblance?" According to Waltzer-and
to Wiesel-Wiesel is writing down his own experience. "Every word is true!" Wiesel has said of his book Night. Thus it should exactly resemble the actual experience he had. I'm going to examine closely what is written in Night about Buchenwald to see if that
is the case.
It's not too difficult because the newest English edition of Night1-a new translation by wife Marion Wiesel which changes (corrects) some of the more blatant "boo-boos" found in the original 1960 edition-comprises only 115 pages. Of that, Wiesel's description of his time at Buchenwald begins on page 104, giving it only 11 pages (one page being blank).
Wiesel wrote a new preface for this new translation in which he tries to answer some of the more common criticisms of his book. His answer to the differences between the Yiddish And the World Remained Silent and Night is that he cut passages he thought might be superfluous ... or "too personal, too private, perhaps." Strange thing to say since he had already published it. Concerning Buchenwald, he quotes the original writing about the death of his father, where the club-wielder is called "an SS" three times! In Night, as you will see below, this person becomes simply "an officer." Naturally I ask: Did this scene even happen? Wiesel also tries to explain why he cut out from the ending so much of what was in the Yiddish version, but in doing so he leaves unmentioned an extensive part of what he cut. I have quoted these two endings in Shadowy Origins of Night, Part II.
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Jul 20, 2011
How true to life is Wiesel's description of Buchenwald in Night?
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