Indexing of the work

In his survival memoir Night (La Nuit, 1958), Wiesel records his memories of the experiences he bore witness to during the Shoah. However, before Night was published, Wiesel released a more detailed version in Yiddish under the title ...and the world remained silent (...un di welt hot geschwign, 1956). As the inaugural publication in our series of scholarly annotated pieces, the Elie Wiesel Research Center has released the first German translation of this work along with a new translation of Night. Wiesel himself noted that Night acts as a cornerstone for his entire body of work:

“If in my lifetime I was to write only one book, this would be the one. Just as the past lingers in the present, all my writings after Night, including those that deal with biblical, Talmudic, or Hasidic themes, profoundly bear its stamp, and cannot be understood if one has not read this very first of my works.” (Elie Wiesel, Preface to the New Translation in English, 2006)

Elie Wiesel's autobiographical accounts of survival and life form the basis for understanding Wiesel's work as a whole.

I. …un di welt hot geschwign (…and the World Remained Silent[CZ1] ), 1956

II. La Nuit (Night), 1958

III. Tous les fleuves von à la mer (All Rivers Run to the Sea), 1994

IV. …Et la mer n’est pas remplie (And the Sea Is Never Full), 1996

V. Cour ouvert (Open Heart), 2011

Wiesel's texts are a valuable resource for preserving the world’s memory of the diverse Eastern European Jewish traditions that were destroyed in the Shoah. In particular, Wiesel’s memories from his childhood in Sighet and its sudden end through the time he spent in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps shape Wiesel's journalistic and literary work, as well as his outstanding humanitarian commitments around the world. Memories of his hometown Sighet always remained a point of orientation for Wiesel. He kept them close to his heart and carried them with him throughout his journeys in Europe, Israel, and the United States.

Wiesel's other autobiographical writings are also shaped by experiences from his youth and complement his larger testimony. They also shed light on important contextual information regarding Wiesel's academic career, which is reflected in his work. These short biographical texts have been newly edited and are included in the complete annotated edition of Elie Wiesel’s Works (EWW), which is contextualized linguistically, politically-historically, and Judaistically.

Indexing of the work – Novels and Dramas

Elie Wiesel’s literary works span over half a century, from L'Aube (1961; Dawn) to Otage (2010, Hostage. A novel, no German translation yet), and include seventeen novels and two short plays. Most of these texts have been translated into several languages and are regarded with critical acclaim throughout the world. A few of his pieces have even won prestigious awards such as the:

  • Prix Rivarol for La Ville de la chance (The Town Beyond the Wall), 1962
  • Prix Médicis for Le Mendiant de Jérusalem (A Beggar in Jerusalem), 1968
  • Grand Prix du roman de la Ville de Paris for Le Cinquième Fils (The Fifth Son), 1983

Over the course of his literary development, Wiesel developed a series of themes regarding major topics like Jewish culture and religion, memory and haunting (with an often-fantastic dimension), the past of the concentration camp as an obstacle to present life, the struggles of imprisonment, the question of testimony, responsibility and judgment, the Jewish progressive thinker, the place of God after Auschwitz, and more. Although he writes on these themes for over a half century, their development throughout his work is progressive, rather than repetitive. This is largely explained by the fact that all his work emanates from the same source: his first work La Nuit (1956), translated to English as Night. This autobiographical text serves as the cornerstone and heart of Wiesel's fictional work, framing his literary work as an extension of his testimony.

In his novels and plays, we study, among other things, the way in which Elie Wiesel combines fiction and spirituality. How does he view the search for God and man's place on earth after the Shoah? How does he reinscribe religion as a meaningful and "humanizing" relationship in society at the time? We also examine how Wiesel's work simultaneously promotes and challenges remembrance culture in a time of rising Anti-Semitism. Our aim is to both situate Wiesel’s work within the literary history of the 20th century, especially camp literature, and to question the complex relationships Wiesel poses between fiction and testimony, the ethical dimensions of his writing, and the intertwining of literature and philosophy.