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Night | Foreword | Summary

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Summary

In the foreword to the text, poet, writer, essayist, and playwright François Mauriac (1885–1970) recalls his first meeting with Elie Wiesel, which occurs during an interview. Mauriac feels apprehensive about his interview with a foreign journalist, but he quickly connects with Wiesel. They discuss the Nazi occupation of France, and Mauriac reveals he is haunted by an image he did not witness personally: cattle cars filled with Jewish children. Wiesel reveals he was one of those children.

Mauriac goes on to reveal parts of Wiesel's story. He mentions how Wiesel lost family members and discusses his first vision of the crematorium and his struggle with faith. While other Holocaust books have been published, Mauriac says of Night that it is "different, distinct, and unique nevertheless." Wiesel's dedication to practicing Judaism and his struggles to understand religion are particularly striking to Mauriac. When Wiesel shares with Mauriac the issues he has with God, the Frenchman, a believer himself, has no response. He sees in Wiesel's eyes "the reflection of the angelic sadness that had appeared one day on the face of a hanged child." Left without words, Mauriac embraces Wiesel and weeps.

Analysis

François Mauriac condemned totalitarianism and worked with writers of the resistance during World War II. He came from a pious upper-middle-class family and is viewed as a Christian writer. Many of his works include a religious person struggling to deal with the issues of sin, grace, and salvation. Prior to meeting Mauriac, Wiesel had written a Yiddish version of Night, which is significantly longer than the final version. Mauriac implored Wiesel to write a French version of the book. He was able to convince Wiesel after promising to write the preface. Still, as Wiesel notes, it faced rejection by publishers and wasn't accepted for two years.

As someone known as a Christian writer, Mauriac unsurprisingly relates to Wiesel's issues with God. Mauriac considers, but refrains from, talking to Wiesel about Jesus and his sufferings. He believes human suffering is a tenet of Christianity, but the horror and the depth of Wiesel's crisis of faith renders Mauriac speechless. Mauriac's inability to conceive of the horrors Wiesel and those in the camps went through similar to the experience of the Jews of Sighet, who are told by Moshe the Beadle about the evil Nazi actions, yet cannot believe them.

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