Night by Elie Wiesel

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
― Elie Wiesel

Night, first published in 1960s is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps both Auschwitz and Buchenwald, at the height of the Holocaust toward the end of the Second World War. 

I read Night because of my earlier read Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. In that book, Sapolsky had quoted Elie Wiesel and that quote is stuck in my mind. “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” It’s unimaginably deep quote. If we do not care, if we stay silent,  if we do not pick sides, the world will fall apart. I don’t think I’ve realized it before or not to full extent of that it is a great crime to remain silent. And so I was intrigued by this book.

“To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

Night (again I listened to it) was shocking, beautiful, torturous read. It describes undescribable horros and undescribable pain. Thinking about the book makes causes me to shiver. I felt like  crying so many times but at the same time I couldn’t stop listening to this book.

Let’s start with the title. Night. It’s not just the darkness outside but also the darkness within. It’s not a night you’d imagine at first. It’s a night so full of smoke that you cannot breathe. Despair so strong that the dawn will never come. A Night that does not end.

“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed….Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

People lost hope and stopped believing in their God. Because why would God be silent through all of this. As one man describes: “I have more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people.” It’s a scary read because it also describes how people lose not just their belief but also their humanity. Cruelty becomes a new norm. People turn against one another as self-preservation takes over. Words like Brother, Father, Friend are meaningless.

“One more stab to the heart, one more reason to hate. One less reason to live.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

Audio performance by acclaimed George Guidall was just a stunning one. I felt like it was Wiesel himself was telling the story as Guidall’s voice truthfully carried all the impossible pain.  My audio book also included Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and preface to new edition of the book and it made me so mad. Original version of the Night was over 800 pages long and it was cut basically every time it was published. And author had to plead and beg to get his work published in many countries. Imagine that.

I feel like I’m unworthy to review this book. I could write thrice as long review from what it already have and still I wouldn’t be able to describe this properly. I guess for me, the most important lesson from this and from Wiesel was how neutrality kills. How indifference kills.

Night touched me to the very core. It’s brutal but necessary read. One of the best reads of my life. I loved it and I will be haunted by it.

5/5 stars

How-To Read Night

1. Just 120 pages but it feels like 1000 pages long.  It’s a heart-wrenching book and even though I would like to urge everyone to read this, it’s a difficult book and I know some will find it hard to stomach. Then again, you have no right not to know.  We must take responsibility for humanity’s sake.
2.
Night is a trilogy so there are two more books to read: Dawn and Day. I’ve heard they’re more fragmented than Night but I cannot not leave them unread.
3.
It’s a beautiful book. Yes, it’s about holocaust but Wiesel’s thoughts on all his experiences are  uniquely expressed. So many lines make you stop and think.

“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.”
― Elie Wiesel, Night

Have you read this? Thoughts?

Featured image: Smoke (Public Domain)

Beautiful Child

Safety is the most basic task of all. Without sense of safety, no growth can take place. Without safety, all energy goes to defense”
― Torey L. Hayden

 Beautiful Child written by Torey Hayden is a true story about a girl called Venus who is highly unresponsive seven-year old. Hayden, the author of this book, is an educational psychologist and a special education teacher. The setting of the book is in her classroom where she teaches five students: an aggressive and loud 9-year-old Billy, 8 year old Jesse who has Tourette’s, six year old twins who had suffered FAS and Venus who is so unresponsive that Hayden assumes she is deaf. However, Venus does talk to her older sister Wanda (actually her mother) and after getting unintentional bump on the school playground, Venus starts crying and screaming and reacts this way every time someone touches her.

“Yeah, it’s hard. It’s really, really hard. But ‘hard’ is not ‘impossible’.”
― Torey L. Hayden

I found this book (and all of Hayden’s books) to be highly inspiring and touching. It was interesting to follow how all the students advanced in their studies and how they changed during the time when Hayden was their teacher. I still don’t get how Hayden could be so patient with the children and how she gives so much of support to these children. I also like that she tells that it’s not easy, and she is also frustrated about a lot of things mentioned in the book. Still, if I would have her job, I would probably  have some serious mental breakdown during the first days so the work she does is admirable (which makes her writing admirable).

I’d give this book 8½/10

How-To Read Beautiful Child

1. At least for me reading nonfiction is a lot harder than reading fiction. That is especially the case with books like this. Children are so sweet and innocent and they should be protected. And then some have just really bad parents. This is why I wouldn’t recommend this book for too young readers (would recommend to 13+).
2. What I like about Hayden’s books, including Beautiful Child is that they have a happy ending. Hayden discovers what the problem is and how to help the children.
3. Hayden has great story-telling skills, so you get pulled into her memoir very easily. The events  take place during one school year, so the pace of the book is very fast and it keeps your interest. It’s not very long book  either, nearly 400 pages.
4. Even if it is very serious book, it is quite funny at times as the students of hers get in funny situations.
5. If you like this book and you haven’t read other books by Torey Hayden, I recommend you do. Other as powerful book is David Pelzer’s A Child Called ‘It’.

“Perhaps the greatest magic of the human spirit is the ability to laugh, at ourselves, at each other, and at our sometimes hopeless situation. Laughter normalized our lives”
― Torey L. Hayden

Buy Beautiful Child on Amazon

How-To Endure Life of a Slave

“Really, it was difficult to determine which I had most reason to fear—dogs, alligators or men!”
― Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave

I have to admit that I did not even know about this book before the movie and it took me a long time to realize that there was actually a book too It is kind of embarrassing for me because I usually know the old books (as they are free to read so it leaves no excuse not to read them) and memoirs in particular. I think everyone should read these memoirs and history not to let the same happen ever again. I’d also like to hear book recommendations on this in case you have ones?

12 Years a Slave is memoir of Solomon Northup published in 1853  It is really touching book because it has the  most unique approach.  Northup was a free man born in New York, skilled carpenter and violinist and family man: married to black woman and father of three.  I honestly did not quite understand how this could happen in the first place. Humanity shows it’s  rotten side as two men basically kidnap Northup and sell him into slavery where he is brutalized and close to death on many occasions. It’s very heart wrenching book.

“Life is dear to every living thing; the worm that crawls upon the ground will struggle for it.”
― Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave

At the same time, I liked the hope element in the book. Already the title of this book gives you a hint of the happy ending. By that I mean that he was slave for 12 years. Then again, there was only hope for Northup. What about all those who were born into slavery and died in the slavery? And, I of course knew that slavery existed (we all do)  100 years ago and there is still human trafficking all around the world but even though when you are reading books like 12 Years a Slave, you just find it hard to believe that this happened only about 100 years ago…I’d give this book 8/10.

“What difference is there in the color of the soul?”
― Solomon Northup, 12 Years A Slave

Your Guide On How-To Read 12 Years a Slave

1. It is memoir, it is free, it tells a lot of history. No reason not to read it.
2. It is quite short, approximately 200 pages but the ending is very rushed, I didn’t like it and you won’t like it. Is it because of David Wilson, his editor?
3. If you like “slave-narratives”, this is the one you can’t skip. Solomon Northup describes life of the slave, the fear and all depressingly well. The stories of other slaves are heart-breaking.
4. I liked the language, so if you like to read comprehensible old language, you should take a look at this.
5. 12 Years a Slave is quite neutral book. It’s just memoir, in the end he says that he does have no comments concerning slavery, this peculiar institution. Reader can think for oneself what they think of it.

Post Scriptum,

Did you like the Vine? (The video in the beginning) This is how I often like to read classics especially if I am traveling because it is very light. Most people might have book in their bags but why, it’s so heavy! This particular reader is Sony Reader PRS-T1. It is my favorite one because battery lasts for months! , I have currently 102 books there and I think one can download even more + there is also room for MicroSD, the  screen is not illuminated but it does have nice little reading lamp. It’s just like a book :)

Buy Twelve Years a Slave on Amazon