Sunday, October 16, 2016

Brona's Salon: Elie Wiesel's Memoirs

Brona's Salon is a new meme which aims to gather a group of like-minded bookish people 'under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.'

[Brona] provides a few prompts to inspire our conversation.  However please feel free to discuss your current read or join in the conversation in any way that you see fit. Amusement, refinement and knowledge will surely follow!

What are you currently reading?
I am reading Elie Wiesel's All Rivers Run to the Sea, which is one of his memoirs.  Wiesel and his family were forced into concentration camps during WWII.  His parents and a younger sister died in the camps. He was fifteen when he was liberated.

How did you find out about this book?
It is the last book on my Well-Educated Mind Reading Challenge biography list.

Why are you reading it now?
I am reading it for my Well-Educated Mind Reading Challenge.

Elie Wiesel in the death camp

First impressions?
In college I read Night by Wiesel, the short memoir about the author's survival in the concentration camp, in Poland.  It is raw and brutal and angry, and I do not fault his tone.  

All Rivers Run to the Sea is a completely different experience, written after Night.  It is composed and long and sometimes rambling.  He tells of his youth and the time leading up to deportation. Then he writes briefly about incidents with his father, inside the camp, and then quickly jumps to liberation and being cared for as an orphan.  

He does not write in detail about his suffering like he does in Night, and that puzzles me, though I know there is a reason why he avoids talking about the horror.  (Maybe because he already had written about it in Night.)  And I was also curious why he instantly clung to his religion, when in Night I felt his anger and rage toward God. I am only half way through this particular book, so things may change, and I may find the answers to my questions.

Which character do you relate to so far?
Wiesel is my main character, and I obviously do not personally relate to him, but I do draw from his experiences.  I try to look to others in order to learn or be encouraged about how to survive adversity. And when I complain excessively about small things, I think about Wiesel and people like him who endured war, poverty, hatred, and hell.  Then I feel pathetic for whining.

Elie Wiesel, 15, right before deportations 

Are you happy to continue?
Yes, I am happy to continue.  I wish it were a little less rambling, but I appreciate that he has to tell his story.  I am willing to listen and believe it is an important story to understand.

Where do you think the story will go?
Good question.  Right now he is still pulling himself from the ashes of sorrow and pain, he is no longer a minor, and he is finding his place in the world - as a writer.  Ten years after liberation, he has decided to write about his experience in the concentration camp.  It is a painful journey, but he felt it was necessary to tell the truth.  

I think the story will continue to move upward, and Wiesel is going to benefit from exposing the personal side and truth of the Holocaust - which up to that point had been avoided or quiet - and it will gain a lot of international attention.  Sometimes the most difficult choices we make are the most beneficial and life-changing.

Elie Wiesel, 1928 - 2016
Be sure to visit Brona's Books to join the Salon.


Risa said...

I generally avoid anything to do with the Holocaust. Just hearing about it is so depressing. But this memoir sounds like it might prove to end with a message of hope. Or am I wrong?

Ruth said...

I don't know, yet, b/c I'm half way through; however, I suspect it will b/c the tone of this memoir is already lighter than his first, Night. Right now I am reading about how he is becoming a journalist and writer. He really has avoided his emotions from the holocaust. It's more factual. He even sarcastically mocks himself from time to time for his insecurities with women. I think the rest of the book is going to cover how he met a lot of great men and women b/c of his courage to speak about his experience, but it won't discuss the details. That wasn't the point of this memoir. Again, I'm not done yet, but this is the feeling I get.

Brona said...

Your current read has touched on one my enduring obsessions - Holocaust literature. I seem to be on a lifelong journey to understand the how and why of man's inhumanity to man. I will usually avoid violent, cruel fiction, but biographies and histories are another matter. If people had to actually live through these ghastly events, then the very least I can do from my (for now) very safe, secure place in this world, is bear witness to their suffering.

I firmly believe that studying history is the only way to ensure we, as a society, don't repeat the same mistakes over and over. If only more of our politicians read history instead of economy & business books *sigh*

I read one of Wiesel's books many many years ago. Your comment about rambling makes me think it was this one.

Thanks for joining in my new meme :-)

Ruth said...

So you never read Night by Wiesel? That is a super short book about his short time in the death camp. It is powerful. This one is very, very long.

I agree that it is important to study history to learn from the past; unfortunately, I don't think a lot of people in power care about the past. They are too self-righteous to learn from others. : (

Thanks for hosting.

Anonymous said...

I too am drawn to Holocaust literature. Why? I am speechless when I read how 'low human beings can stoop' to injure one another. My reviews (4 parts, on blog books 2012)) of Ravensbruck by Germaine were difficult to write. She was a member of the French Resistance, survivor of Ravensbrück Concentration Camp. Night is another book that is as poignant as Diary of Anne Franck. Just 120 pages but left a lasting impression.
I will be looking forward to your final review of All Rivers Run to the Sea. Could you tell me something about the title? Meaning?

Ruth said...

That's a good question, and I have wondered myself. I have yet to come across the meaning, but I will talk about it in my final post when I finish the book. Who knows if he'll say something about it, or if I will need to research it.

I appreciate accounts of people affected by the Holocaust, too, especially Night and Dairy of Anne Frank. That other one, Ravensbruck, was also suggested to me by a friend. I have that on my TBR.

It is important for us to read the stories of the past, if not to learn what man did and how to resist evil, but also to learn how people overcome and survive.

Sharon Wilfong said...

I read Night by Wiesel and it provided so much insight into how people can be in denial until it is too late.

I remember one incident struck me: A street vendor came running into their town warning them to leave because the Germans were coming and were out to destroy them. Everyone (the Jews) decided he was crazy.

Then they came and people decided they weren't really that bad. Then the Germans put the Jews in concentration camps but the Jews thought, this is only temporary and it's not so bad living here.

Then the Germans took them off in chains to concentration camps and everyone woke up.

I see that as a cautionary tale for all of us.

Ruth said...

Elie struggled with this for a long time. He asked why the world - assuming the world knew the fate of the European Jews before the Jews did - why the world did not do more to stop Hitler before it was too late. Even Elie's father knew something because he purchased tickets for his family to move to America before they were deported; but he waited too long. He must not have believed the inevitable could happen. But it did.