Richard Elman Elie Wiesel - Essay

Elie Wiesel

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["The 28th Day of Elul"] touches on the most important human and philosophical questions of our time, although as a novel it may suffer from certain weaknesses which grow out of its use of literary devices: Yagodah's confession, for example, would have gained in simplicity if it were straight narrative—instead of a letter to an American lawyer on complicated inheritance matters.

Also, some erotic digressions—Yagodah's love scenes with his cousin—seen unnecessary or, at least, over-descriptive. If they are to prepare and explain his subsequent homosexual inclinations, the motivation strikes us as too obvious. An essayist and novelist of Elman's perception surely must know that Yagodah's problems carry weight only because of their metaphysical implications. His rebellion against nature covers more than his own instincts, more than his own past.

The strength of this book lies in its style, which is vivid, argumentative, poignant and moving. Sparing no one, he provides disturbing insight into the traumatic psychology of certain survivors—who, caught in webs of universal betrayal, are forced into total alienation. They are characters in search of their dead.

Perhaps the author is excessively severe with his hero, who, in turn, is unduly harsh with all the others who have adjusted to the world and have accepted it as their own. But who would dare to blame Yagodah for his bitterness and his confession for its lack in compassion? After all, that too is part of the tale. (pp. 4, 34)

Elie Wiesel, "Legacy of Evil," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1967 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 28, 1967, pp. 4, 34.