As I was led across the room to meet Wiesel, I felt an odd mixture of excitement and guilt: a sense of trespassing...
Wiesel turned out to be a lean, neat figure in his mid-seventies with heavy features that made him look melancholic. But his spirit was light and conversation easy. I was most eager to talk about Levi himself, whom Wiesel had known well. He told me how he had spoken to Levi on the telephone just a few days before his shocking suicide in 1987: “I knew about Primo’s depressions, of course, but there was something different about this one, more serious. I offered to pay for him to fly to New York so that we could talk properly, but he said there was no point.”
A crucial difference between the two authors is that Wiesel retained his religious beliefs after Auschwitz, while Levi wrote: “There was Auschwitz, therefore God does not exist.” I said to Wiesel that I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall during their discussions about God in Auschwitz. He replied: “I felt God betrayed me in Auschwitz; I blamed Him. Primo didn’t do this because he had no God: he was from a family of agnostics. There was no God to blame.”
Then, unexpectedly, he made me laugh – mentioning that he had written a play about suing God over Auschwitz.
“Yet despite it all,” I said, “you kept your faith.”
He answered with precision: “Not quite. I have a wounded faith.”