Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Oprah Picks Wiesel's NIGHT

Oprah Winfrey announced Monday that her latest book club pick is Elie Wiesel's compelling autobiographic account of the Holocaust, NIGHT. More than one million copies of the book have been published by Farrar, Straus in both paperback and hardcover, and by Monday afternoon the book's Amazon sales ranking was at 21, and is currently at #3.

NIGHT is about Wiesel's survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps, where he witnessed the deaths of family members. Originally written in French in the 1950s, it attracted little notice at first. "The English translation came out in 1960, and the first printing was 3,000 copies," he said. "And it took three years to sell them. Now, I get 100 letters a month from children about the book. And there are many, many million copies in print."

Said Winfrey during her show on Monday, "Like Dr. King I have a dream of my own, too, that the powerful message of this little book would be engraved on every human heart and will never be forgotten again. That you who read this book will feel as I do that these 120 pages ... should be required reading for all humanity."

I vehemently agree.

I first heard of the book when a section of it was assigned for a college course. It was so forceful that even that little bit remained with me so that, years later when I saw stacks of it sitting on a bookstore table, I felt compelled to buy and read it in its entirety. Though it is definitely not light reading, NIGHT should be read by all ages and nationalities, so as not to forget the horrors of the Holocaust, or, as Wiesel puts it, “man’s capacity for inhumanity to man.” It seems especially more imperative that we remember, that we never forget, after the recent denouncement of the Holocaust by the new Iranian president as a “myth” perpetuated by the U.S. and European community.

Wiesel is the author of more than 40 books, essays and plays, and has won the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Peace (1986). Although many bookstores market NIGHT as a novel, Wiesel's foundation labels it a memoir.

In one passage, he sums up his feelings upon arrival in Auschwitz:

"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 that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. ... Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never."

Winfrey also said on Monday that she plans to travel with Wiesel to Auschwitz in February, and her show will have a high school essay contest on Wiesel's book. Fifty winners will be flown to Chicago for a taping of her show with the author.

Buy the book now:
Barnes & Noble

1 comment:

Jana said...

Will have to put it on my to-buy list. I do have a hard time reading things of this nature though so if I get REALLY depressed at some point, you'll know why.