Friday, December 29, 2006


I got a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble from one of my students for Christmas and immediately went and spent it. I got 3 books...Night by Elie Wiesel, Heart of Darkness (with 2 bonus short stories) by Joseph Conrad and Turn of the Screw and the Aspern Papers both by Henry James. I decided to read Night first because it was a shorter book and I figured I'd be done reading it before I left for vacation. I did not really know what was in store for me when I bought the book, only having read the back of it and thinking it sounded interesting. Interesting was completely the wrong word for what the book was to me. If you haven't read it, it is Wiesel's account of what he experienced at the concentration camps of the Holocaust. The book left me with mixed emotions the greatest of which was feeling like I wasn't entitled to feeling any at all. Auschwitz was not my experience and it felt like I was patronizing his agony by feeling horrified and sad for what he and countless other people went through. One story he told was during a transport to another camp. A woman from the passenger part of the train they were on was throwing coins into the cattle cars and people were fighting to the death over this woman's pocket change. When she was asked to stop the woman replied "I like to give charity." I felt like I was as arrogant as that woman. I also felt that I was intruding on this man's very private and personal story. It seemed to be a sacred work, perhaps because this was not only his story but the story of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of others. I know well that he wrote this account down and published it so people would specifically read it, but it still felt as though this was information that I should not be privvy to. While it feels like saying anything to describe the book or my feelings about it does a disservice to his work and experiences, I felt that I had to say something just to process the whole thing. If you want to borrow the book let me know.


gary said...

I read that in high school... definitely memorable.

Mel said...

Yeah, I'm not sure why we didn't. I seem to recall the whole subject of the Holocaust was grossly understated and glossed over in school (at least in my school).

Chris said...

We read it too. Good stuff, but I think I should read it again now - I'd probably appreciate it more than I did as a disgruntled tenth grader.

I'm amused that you voluntarily grabbed Heart of Darkness ... I remember being one of maybe three people in both AP English classes who actually liked it, seeing as how it's really ... well, dark.