Speaking through silence : the art of Elie Wiesel / by Marie Meisel Cedars
Includes bibliographical references (p. 189-200)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
Elie Wiesel's concise, understated style known as silence evokes the reader's participation in Wiesel's Holocaust experience and in his confrontation with its implications. This study analyzes what Wiesel says, proposes what he leaves unsaid, and suggests the reasons for and effect of his omissions. Documentation is drawn from Wiesel's original French works, and his style is compared with that of other survivors. The Introduction notes previous works on silence in general and on Wiesel's silence in particular. Part I defines silence as what is not said but is a presence, is intentional, and is expressed through words and the spaces around them. Part II explores the sources of Wiesel's silence in his deeply religious childhood, in the destruction of his faith in the death camps, and in the impotence of language to tell his incredible and incommunicable experience. After a ten-year silence, Wiesel chose the reticent style of the Bible to convey his testimony. Part III analyzes seven groups of manifestations of Wiesel's silence: (1) The neutral tone suppresses emotion, reveals despair, and represents the perception of the witness. (2) The absence of explanations and causal connectives indicates Wiesel's belief that the Covenant between God and His people had been broken. (3) Conciseness avoids distortion and retains only essence. (4) Understatement improves credibility and emphasizes implications. (5) After La Nuit, allusion through stories, aphorisms, and "dialogues" replaces direct mention of the Holocaust. (6) Silent spaces reveal emotional stress or passage of time and may become the dominant figure in an utterance. (7) Unanswerable questions prick the conscience, mute characters demonstrate the intentionality in silence and its ability to absorb and reflect, and names emphasize the partnership of man and God. An Afterword summarizes Wiesel's change to speaking out against inhumanity everywhere as he awakens man to his responsibility. He stresses what man can and must do despite God's silence. His style becomes more lyrical when he retrieves the Hasidic ambience of his childhood. Yet silence as a mood persists in his novels where he continues to wrestle with the Holocaust's legacy.
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