With the encouragement of Francois Mauriac, Elie Wiesel broke his silence on the horror of the Holocaust to produce an 800-page memoir entitled, Un di Velt Hot Geshvign, in 1956. That cathartic story was reworked over two years and became the slim 1958 novella La Nuit which became Night in 1960. Wiesel’s novel revealed the Holocaust in stark, evocative, detail. He had a hard time finding an audience, however, in a world that preferred the 1947 Diary of a Young Girl written by Anne Frank. Night made no claim on innocence but created an aesthetics of the Holocaust to force people to face the horrible event and, hopefully, break the general silence surrounding that Hell. For Wiesel, Night began a brilliant writing career.
Night begins in 1941 in a Hasidic community in the town of Sighet, Transylvania. There we meet a devout young boy named Eliezer who is so fascinated by his own culture and religion that he wishes to study Jewish cabballa. His father, however, says he must master the Talmud before he can move on to the mystical side of the Jewish faith. Moshe the Beadle indulges the boy until the reality of World War II reaches them. The fascists come to power in Romania and foreign Jews are deported Moshe with them. Some days later, he makes it back to town and tells them what happened. All the people presumed deported were shot. That was only the beginning, the dusk of the coming night. Within a matter of paragraphs, officers of the Nazi SS corps have arrived and the family is broken up and sent to Birkenau; the metaphorical night only gets darker as Eliezer struggles to survive in the brutality and degradation of the camps.