Wiesel then revealed to Mauriac that he was one of the children in those cattle cars, and Mauriac begins discussing the strengths of Night. He talks about the power of Wiesel’s story: like the memoir of Anne Frank, a German Jew who died in a concentration camp, it is a deeply personal story, bearing painfully intimate witness to the horrors of World War II. He explains that Wiesel has given a human face to the suffering of the Holocaust by telling his own “different, distinct, unique” account of events. As an individual chronicle of life under the Nazis, Mauriac argues, the work merits attention as an incomparable story.
Mauriac adds that Wiesel’s narrative possesses an even more engaging, spiritual dimension. Mauriac focuses on the narrator’s struggles with God and religion as the most striking aspect of the work. Quoting one of Night’s most famous passages (the “Never shall I forget that night” passage that occurs after the narrator’s arrival at Auschwitz), Mauriac explains that he was intensely affected by the narrator’s loss of faith, and that this crisis of faith is a profoundly troubling legacy of the Holocaust. As a deeply believing Christian, he writes, he wanted to explain to Wiesel that he views suffering as the cornerstone of faith, not as an impediment to trust in God. He wishes he had been able to explain to Wiesel his faith, trust in God’s grace, and confidence in eternal mercy. But, Mauriac concludes, the power of Wiesel’s story, particularly the depth of his spiritual crisis, overwhelmed him, and, struck speechless, he “embrace[d] him, weeping.”
François Mauriac (1885–1970) was a French writer, author of novels, poems, essays, journalism, and plays, and winner of the 1952 Nobel Prize in Literature. He was a devout Roman Catholic whose writings often focus on the struggle between good and evil within human nature and the importance of faith. During World War II, Mauriac’s vociferous criticism of the Nazis forced him to go into hiding. He later became a staunch supporter of Charles de Gaulle, the French hero who helped liberate his nation from Nazi occupation in 1944.
According to most accounts, it was Mauriac who persuaded Wiesel to write and publish Night. Wiesel had imposed a vow of silence upon himself regarding his experiences in the camps, but Mauriac convinced Wiesel of the importance of sharing his story. Along these lines, it is worth noting that some critics—definitely a minority—feel that Wiesel altered his manuscript to conform to Mauriac’s emphasis on bearing witness and the crisis of faith. According to these critics, Wiesel’s original manuscript, the voluminous Yiddish version of more than 800 pages titled Un di Velt Hot Geshvign (And the World Remained Silent), is much fiercer in tone than Night. These same critics argue that Mauriac’s influence caused Wiesel to remove the manuscript’s