Not Giving Up

Reviewing Elie Wiesel’s latest book, Open Heart, Stefan Kanfer points to the intractable question that animates the Holocaust survivor:

[T]he essential theme of Wiesel’s 57th book is the role of theology in a secular age. If he were allowed one question to God, asks an interviewer, what would it be? Wiesel answers with one syllable: “Why?” The survivor belongs, he continues, “to a generation that has often felt abandoned by God and betrayed by mankind.” And yet, “I believe that we must not give up on either.”

In essence, this means that as a Jew who has seen the worst that history has to offer—and who notes the genocidal acts that go on unabated in Africa and the Middle East—Wiesel still sees the glass as half-full. And as a writer who saw how the perversion of language could contribute to genocide, he still believes in the power of prose and poetry to redeem humanity despite its inhumanity. “I continue to cling to words because it is up to us to transform them into instruments of comprehension rather than contempt. It is up to us to choose whether we wish to use them to curse or to heal, to wound or to console.” The author’s choice manifests itself on every page.