The Camusian element in the early novels of Elie Wiesel / by Anne Landau
Includes bibliographical references (p. 255-262)
Albert Camus's absurd philosophy has impacted greatly on Elie Wiesel for whom Auschwitz signifies the absurdity of human and divine behavior and the breakdown of the Covenant and the Jewish spirit. This critical study shows how Wiesel gropes for an appropriate response to the Holocaust through Camus's writings, and how his Jewish protagonist explores the absurd alternatives of murder, suicide, and madness which stun because of their sudden viability, and this irrespective of Judaism's moral code. The Camusian element unfolds chronologically in Dawn, The Accident, and The Town Beyond the Wall, a fictional trilogy constituting the author's initial probings into the post-Holocaust Jewish condition. At the core of each is a survivor-protagonist whose biography is similar: he is the absurd man whose post-concentrationary life is meaningless because his camp existence actualizes the Sisyphean myth. His overriding concern, to paraphrase Sisyphus, is to answer whether or not life--after Auschwitz--is worth living, and the narratives develop responses to an absurd which for Wiesel is a historical burden and not a philosophical derivative. If the answer is "yes," if the Jew (in his idiom) is to continue to "choose life," he must find ways which allow him to exist in a world which historically negates his being. He must also find ways of dealing with God. Camus's influence is such that Wiesel's protagonist advances, with some recoil, from absurd man to rebel. In Dawn, he murders, and this causes his psychological destruction. In The Accident, he attempts suicide. Both solutions prove untenable, not simply because they kill the human element, but because they annihilate the idea of the Jew and violate his intimacy with God. In The Town, the protagonist revolts positively and begins to redefine his essence. The more Wiesel fictionally explores the absurd, the more he acknowledges that self-image is crucial to the Jew's survival. Like his Biblical predecessors, Wiesel's Jew must rebel to retain his authenticity which, in the Jewish context, is the ability to remain Jewish. By continuing to fight for the sanctity of life, he reaffirms a historic identity granted at Sinai.
Record last modified: 2018-05-22 11:46:00
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