The Accident is the third part of a trilogy that begins with Night. Originally titled Le Jour (the day), it comes after L’Aube (1960; Dawn, 1961), a novel in which Wiesel explores the ambiguous legacy of Night by describing how Elisha, another young Holocaust survivor, confronts the uneasy responsibility of killing to help establish a post-Holocaust homeland for Jews in Israel. The setting for The Accident is very different, but this novel also probes Holocaust survival and finds its meaning unsettled and unsettling. Both Night and Dawn reveal that the swords of politics and history cut many ways. Once one has experienced that kind of destruction, The Accident asks whether life is worth living at all.
His present and future overwhelmed by what he has witnessed in the past, Eliezer doubts that he can endure his Holocaust survival. The world will not be changed, it seems, and the dead cannot be brought back to life. Nevertheless, they haunt the living too much, creating feelings of guilt, frustration, anger, and rebellion that make joy and happiness all but impossible. In spite of the fact that he has friends and even a woman who loves him, the young man’s life is “the tragic fate of those who came back, left over, living-dead.” Thus, not only because he feels that “I am my past,” but also because he knows that his inability to move beyond makes others suffer, Eliezer senses that life will force him to lie in ways that he has neither the desire nor the strength to sustain.
Not feeling well, exhausted by the heat and a reporting job that seems of no consequence, Eliezer still manages to keep his date with Kathleen. They decide on a film, The Brothers Karamazov. Then, crossing a busy New York street, the young man is struck and dragged by a car: Le Jour, rendered in English, becomes The Accident. “On the fifth day I at last regained consciousness,” Eliezer reports. “I felt alone, abandoned. . . . That I was still alive had left me indifferent, or nearly so.”
Hope dawns in the “nearly so.” Undeniably, the discovery that he can still...
(The entire section is 541 words.)