The research of the complete works of Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel produced an extensive and varied body of work in four languages (Yiddish, Hebrew, French, and English) that spans diverse genres such as: articles, essays, novels, novellas, dialogues, dramas, cantatas, translations, reportages, travelogues, portraits, legends, parables, memoirs, interviews, speeches, book reviews, theater criticisms, biblical commentaries, sermons, and theological treatises. Wiesel's work, which includes more than 50 published books, depicts facts, places, figures, motifs, questions, symbols, and paradoxes of the Holocaust in an array of ever-changing patterns and variations that stretch over a range of traditional genre boundaries. The core of his work is made of autobiographical accounts of survival and life, such as his memoir Night.

Wiesel suggested his narrative work follows a vast structure, revolving like "concentric circles" around his memoir, Night (cited in Brown 1990, 62). His thoughts are emphasized by the belletristic (novels, dramas, fairy tales, cantatas, etc.), essayistic (critical, political, humanitarian, pedagogical essays) and Judaic (biblical, rabbinic, and Hasidic) perspectives he used to express his largely biographical questions.

Until now, Wiesel's books have been translated and studied primarily as individual texts, limiting the perceived meaning of works that were intended as parts of an organic whole. It is past time that Wiesel's countless articles, columns, commentaries, and speeches were translated so they can be studied as the cohesive body of work they represent. Wiesel’s full collection forms a self-commentary on his literary work, which articulates his decisive reflections on pre-modern and modern Jewish existence and acts as a crucial resource for studying self-understanding in contemporary Jewry.

Research on Elie Wiesel’s work can be divided into the following main categories:

1. Jewish theological and Christian theological interpretations

2. Literary approaches in the context of Holocaust Literature

3. Ethical, humanistic and pedagogical interpretations

4. Biblical, Talmudic, Rabbinic and Hasidic interpretations of the work

Wiesel’s body of work can be distinguished as belonging to one of four distinctive literary and linguistic periods:

I. 1945-1956: Autobiographical and journalistic (Hebrew and Yiddish)

II. 1958-1972: Fiction (French)

III. 1972-1986: Jewish (French and English)

IV. 1987-now: Autobiographical, essayistic, and journalistic (French and English)

In some pieces, the four voices of the memorialist, literary writer, essayist, and visionary blend into an artful composition. His works within each period are often unified by recurring motifs that appear in his work as political information, literary fiction, ethical reflection, and mystical speculation. Therefore, a cohesive anthology of his work must include diverse hermeneutic perspectives.

Existing international research on Elie Wiesel can be described as impressionistic. Treatises in literary studies are generally limited to individual texts, novels, or contextual localizations, so Wiesel’s work is rarely interpreted within the context of Jewish and Yiddish literature. Conversely, Judaistic treatises do not typically consider other literary traditions and contexts, much like Christian theological interpretations neglect Jewish interpretations.

Several texts by Elie Wiesel are available in German translations, but most are out of print. The Research Center would like to increase accessibility to his lesser-known pieces by preparing a critical edition of Elie Wiesel's work with further scholarly articles and publications.

A detailed account of the indexing of the Elie Wiesel’s works can be found in the essay For a comprehensive edition of the works of Elie Wiesel (in German) by Reinhold Boschki and Daniel Krochmalnik, please download it here.