Did Elie Wiesel Christianize the Holocaust?
Wiesel's Night in Yiddish and French: Critical Appraisals and a New Approach
A lecture by Professor Alan Astro, Trinity University, San Antonio, TX
Friday, October 26
Room 609 Social Sciences Building
Elie Wiesel's Night, which first appeared in French as La nuit in 1958, may well loom as the archetypal Holocaust survivor account. But it was only in 1994, in his memoirs, that the author addressed the fact that Night is part adaptation, part translation of a Yiddish work he originally published in Buenos Aires in 1956, entitled ...Un di velt hot geshvign (...And the World Was Silent).
Critics have read discrepancies between the two versions in various ways: favorably, as resulting from appreciation for the distinct literary idiom of each language; provocatively, as the consequence of Wiesel's desire to cast the Holocaust in Christian, rather than Jewish, terms; and disparagingly, as part of a strategy to hide ideologically unpalatable, ethnocentric attitudes from a wider audience.
This presentation will review merits and flaws of these differing interpretations of Wiesel's work, and sketch a possible new approach.
Alan Astro (Ph.D., Yale University, 1985) is professor of Modern Languages and Literatures at Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas. He has published on Beckett, Borges and Sholem Aleichem as well as other modern authors in French, Spanish and Yiddish. Astro's latest work is Yiddish South of the Border: An Anthology of Latin American Yiddish Writing (2003).