I’ve wanted to read Night by Elie Wiesel for many years. This slim memoir has a legacy all its own, which very few books, either fiction or nonfiction, can claim to have. I don’t know why I’ve avoided it for so long. Perhaps the ubiquity of its influence over the years told me I always had time to visit it when I wanted to, as I remind myself with Proust or James Baldwin or Simone de Beauvoir. That it wasn’t going anywhere. Then, several months ago, while flying to California from New York, I purchased it on my way to the airport. It’s short, hardly a hundred pages, and I finished it just as I was landing in Los Angeles.
Elie Wiesel was only sixteen years old when his family was forced into one of the two ghettos of Sighet, a Romanian town in the Carpathian Mountains, which had, by 1940, come under Hungarian control. That same year, Hungarian authorities allowed the Germans to deport Jews settled in these ghettos to various concentration camps that began sprouting up in German-controlled areas. The Wiesels were taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau, a camp located in contemporary Poland.