Thursday, September 14, 2006

Night and other tragic tales

First, a quote from one of my favorite authors:

"You've got to love libraries. You've got to love books. You've got to love poetry. You've got to love everything about literature. Then, you can pick the one thing you love most and write about it."
~ Ray Bradbury

So true! I love libraries, and always have. Maple Valley has a great library, and I joined their library guild to try and help the place stay great.
Our next book club selection is "Night" by Elie Wiesel, which I read in high school, 30 years ago. I thought it was the book about the holocaust that I really loved and felt had an important message, but it turns out that it was Victor Frankels "Mans Search for Meaning" that was the book I remember enjoying, because it was so uplifting. "Night, on the other hand, is a searing, horrifying account of Weisels time in the Nazi death camps during WWII. We are not spared any of the ugliness, any of the pain that Weisel experienced, from being dragged from their homes in Transylvania/Hungary and transported in cattle cars on a train to Auschwitz. One hears about mans inhumanity to man, but here is proof positive of the depths to which men will sink, morally and physically, to harm one another for no better reason than one madmans idea of making a perfect world.
If you are a student of history, you know that the Jewish people have been persecuted for centuries. Every time some plague or political problem sprouted up, the Jews were blamed (even if it had nothing to do with them) and inevitably there was a pogrom and entire villages of Jewish people were wiped out. The knowledge that Hitler came close to wiping out all the Jews in Europe and surrounding countries makes me ill. That level of cruelty and depravity is just mind-numbing, disgusting and horrifying. All because there was a belief by some that the Jewish religion was offensive, and created a people who were lesser human beings. By making the Jewish people seem too different, fascists encouraged peoples fears, and this allowed them to somehow justify killing millions of men, women and children. What a tragedy. There is no apology appropriate enough, or any restitution that gives enough value to recompense the Jewish people for the holocaust. At any rate, I found "Night" to be a painful, but necessary read, and I hope that I can find a copy of "Mans Search for Meaning" and re-read that as well, as I read both of these books together 30 years ago, and they made an impression on me then, just as they will make a different impression now. I found evil astonishing and repulsive back when I was 16, and I still find it so today. Now I just have more of a context for it because I have a family, and I can imagine the pain of losing family members to Nazi butchery.
I have an ARC of "This Is Not Chick Lit," (edited by Elizabeth Merrick) which is a great compendium of short stories by women authors that I am starting today, and a book by Anna Quindlan that I am going to read. I hope to be able to post about them within the next week.

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