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.