Sunday, August 22, 2010

Have You Read Wiesel's "The Dawn"?

I caught this:

Joseph Lowin:. I once had a conversation with your good friend Eliyahu Amikam. During the conversation, he hinted that your early novel, Dawn, a masterpiece of Racinian concision and tautness, might be based on a real event that you had witnessed. He even thought that he himself might be the model for one of the characters in the novel.

Elie Wiesel:. In Le Monde, they called my work Racinian. No, I wrote Dawn before I met him [Eliyahu Amikam]. We were very close, and I, because of him, became very interested in LEHI. You know that the execution of two British sergeants, after the killing by the British of three Jews—Dov Gruner and two others—was at the hands of the Irgun, not LEHI. In any case, I was not there; I came to Israel for the first time in 1949 and stayed only a few months. If I had been in Palestine at the time, I would have joined LEHI, because it had a certain purity and was suffused with poetry. Things happened, but I wrote a different story. I met afterwards somebody who was the head of a squad to punish traitors. He had read Dawn. He said, “What you describe there is so impossible. You really think we spent a whole night discussing these things—philosophy, morality—are you crazy? Come on,” he said. “We got the order. I had to execute somebody. I did it.” I said to him, “I prefer my style.”

Joseph Lowin:. I have just re-read Saul Bellow’s Mr. Sammler’s Planet, dealing with a highly intellectual old man who had gone through the Holocaust. To me, Sammler’s actions and thoughts during his experience ring true, and even remind me of Elisha’s dilemma in Dawn. Do you see a filiation? Has Elisha become a literary type, a metaphysical model? The Jew who fights back also thinks?

Elie Wiesel:. First of all, I know Bellow, but I’m not even sure he read Dawn. I do know that he read Night. [In any case] I did not write to teach other people how to write. I wrote for myself, by myself. The one writer who responded to Dawn was Philip Roth, who compared Dawn with [Leon Uris’s] Exodus, praising Dawn, and downgrading Exodus.

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