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As a child in Sighet, as a young boy in Auschwitz, as a teenaged DP wandering through post-World War II Europe, as a young man at the beginning of his career as writer, witness, and human-rights activist, Elie Wiesel has had extraordinary encounters: with his beloved sages, mystics, teachers, and dreamers; with young people alive with hope and with surviors who will forever be numb with loss and despair; with men who personify evil, and with men who are the embodiment of goodness.
A chance encounter on a Tel Aviv bus brings Wiesel face-to-face with a notorious Auschwitz barracks-chief and forces him to confront past demons that he thought had been laid to rest. Traveling through Spain, he is approached by a young Catholic with a document that has been passed down within his family for generations, a document in an unfamiliar langauge that no one has ever been able to read, a document, Wiesel tells the astonished young man, that was written in Hebrew in August of 1492 and that proclaims to the descendants of one Moshe ben Avraham his unshakable belief that the time will come when they will once again be able to live openly as Jews. A few years later, it is Wiesel's turn to be astonished as he meets the young man on a Jerusalem street and is greeted by him in halting Hebrew. Twenty years after being deported from Sighet, Wiesel summons the courage to return, and is surprised by how little has changed—the only thing missing are the 10,000 Jews who had once lived there and the collective memory of their ever having existed. In a Moscow synagogue in the fall of 1967 Wiesel finds a sanctuary filled with young Jews who have miraculously educated themselves in their history and ancient language, who sing Hebrew songs in the street outside the synagogue as KGB agents take down names.
“Brief confrontations with the past, [this is] writing of the highest quality.” —New York Review of Books
“The discussions here of individual and collective guilt are written with quiet care and humility, out of a ruthlessly honest self-examination, with an unwavering vision of the complicated facts.” —Robert Alter, Saturday Review