All Rivers Run to the Sea Summary
by Elie Wiesel

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All Rivers Run to the Sea Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Taking the title of his autobiography from Ecclesiastes, Elie Wiesel presents the important people and events of his life, beginning with his childhood in Sighet, Romania, and culminating in his 1969 marriage in Jerusalem. Wiesel, through stories and remembrances, tells of a family full of piety, moral courage, and selfless devotion to Judaism. From his mother and grandmother, Elie learned goodness and love; from his grandfather, the Jewish legends he would later use in fiction and essays; from his father, rectitude and altruism. His teachers, at various times of his life, inculcated in him a reverence for learning, an exactness in biblical or philosophical discourse, and above all the joy, sadness, and truth of the old masters.

World War II and the persecution of the Jews destroyed Wiesel’s idyllic world forever. He and his family were taken to Auschwitz. He later was transferred to Buchenwald. Unable to understand German cruelty, angry at those who did not intervene on the victims’ behalf, angry too at God for letting it happen, Wiesel emerged alive after terrible trials. At age seventeen he was endowed with a special knowledge of life and death.

Shortly after his liberation from Buchenwald he went to France, where he eventually enrolled at the university, enduring hardship and contemplating suicide. Saved by Zionist fervor, he worked as a journalist for an Israeli newspaper in Paris. A crucial meeting with novelist François Mauriac in 1955 was to decide his literary career: Mauriac encouraged him to break his self-imposed silence about his experience in concentration camps and found a publisher for Wiesel’s first novel, La Nuit (1958; Night, 1960), to which he contributed the foreword.

After Wiesel moved to New York to become his newspaper’s American correspondent,...

(The entire section is 445 words.)