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Literary Craftsman


VOICEOVER: Why do I write?  Perhaps in order not to go mad, Or, on the contrary, to touch the bottom of madness.

MENACHEM ROSENSAFT: Elie wrote beautifully. He really was a craftsman when it came to the use of language, both in the written word and the spoken word. Many of his novels touch on the periphery of the Holocaust, but still deal with it.  NIGHT is one of the gems because it does not avoid the horrors but it places them in a human context and it does not frighten the reader away.

ILEENE SMITH: It's almost inconceivable that one man could have published the number of books that he published. One might have expected his productivity to trail off in those years where everyone wanted him to speak on the great moral questions of our time, but that didn't happen.

VOICEOVER: Memory means to live in more than one world, to be tolerant and understanding with one another, to accept the mystery inherent in questions, and the suspicion linked to answers. Naturally, it can also bring forth tensions and conflicts, but they can then be transformed into culture, art, education, spiritual inquiry, the quest for truth, the quest for justice.

ELISHA WIESEL: In my 20s, the book I appreciated the most was actually THE ACCIDENT. Y'know, here is this autobiographical story of my father dating a non-Jewish woman named Kathleen, of going to the theater, of taking taxicabs, of experiencing the American medical system. I think as I've moved on, y'know, some of the Hasidic stories have gotten much more interesting to me, my father as storyteller.

MARTHA HAUPTMAN: And I wish people would take a look at those other books, because he had a lot to say in particularly the nonfiction, and the novels are wonderful. 

VOICEOVER: One never knows what to expect in the next line, on the next page. Another catastrophe? Another warning? Another miracle? To read means to open gates and go back to ancient times and bring back ancient experiences.

Elie Wiesel was a prolific author. He wrote more than 50 works of fiction and nonfiction, including essays, memoirs, novels, and plays. He first became interested in journalism while studying in Paris in the late 1940s. He traveled around the world as a reporter for the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot. In 1954, Wiesel took on the challenge of writing about his experiences during the Holocaust. 

He first wrote a nearly 900-page manuscript in Yiddish, a shortened version of which was published in 1956. Soon thereafter he edited and translated the Yiddish memoir into French, and it was published under the title La Nuit in 1958. The English translation, Night, appeared in 1960. The memoir has since been translated into more than 30 languages, is widely taught to students around the world, and is considered a bedrock of Holocaust literature.

Wiesel was committed to bringing to life the stories of the observant Hasidic Jewish tradition in which he grew up. He published many essays on the great figures of the biblical, rabbinic, and Hasidic traditions.

Most of Wiesel’s writing was originally published in other languages. See a bibliography of his works written in or translated into English.