(Not) Remembering Elie Wiesel


About the late 1970s and early 1980s in Baltimore, I distinctly recall when it was I bought Hertzberg’s The Zionist Idea and the big A Treasury of Yiddish Stories. I remember quite clearly what it felt like reading the essays in Buber’s On Judaism and I and Thou, and failing to get through Rosenzweig’s The Star of Redemption. I remember the first time I ever looked at a book by Nietzsche. It was Beyond Good and Evil. I was 17. I remember especially Dostoyevsky, of course, and reading Singer for the first time. I remember the heft of the books and their look, how they felt in the hand, the philosophical and political and religious impressions they made. I remember the impact of watching Night and Fog for the first time at a tender young age, at Hebrew School and at summer camp, and also Malmud’s “The Jew Bird.” I remember my first introduction to Scholem and to Pirkei Avot, and reading Rubenstein’s After Auschwitz, the first and superior edition, in Guatemala in the mid 1980s. But for the life of me, I have no deep memory of  Night. Wiesel was simply always there, an important piece of Jewish mental furniture. Could it be the case that I did not read Night until graduate school, preparing my dissertation, in the 1990s? All I know is that my copy of the book is old, published in 1960, and that this book that originally sold for $2.25 cost me $1.50 when I bought it somewhere at what must have been a used book shop. As if outside place and time, I just can’t recall ever reading it for the first time. The barely grudging recommendation by Alfred Kazin on the front cover dates my copy of the book, which smells like old browning pages.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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