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Updated Up To 18/01/2017
Volume 12, Issue 1 (January 2014) : 127-53
Revisiting Wieselís Night in Yiddish, French, and English

Alan Astro
Rubric A: Eyewitness Narratives
Rubric B: Translation



Elie Wieselís Night, which first appeared in French as La nuit in 1958, may well loom as the archetypal Holocaust survivor narrative. But it was only in 1994, in his memoirs, that the author addressed the fact that Night is part adaptation, part translation, of a Yiddish work he originally published in Buenos Aires in 1956: ÖUn di velt hot geshvignAnd the World Was Silent).

Critics have read discrepancies between the two versions in various ways: favorably, as resulting from appreciation for the distinct literary idiom of each language; provocatively, as the consequence of Wieselís desire to cast the Holocaust in Christian, rather than Jewish, terms; and disparagingly, as part of a strategy to hide ideologically unpalatable, ethnocentric attitudes from a wider audience.

This article reviews the merits and flaws of these interpretations of differences in versions of Night. Further, it offers a new approach that involves a re-examination of Wieselís relationship with François Mauriac, the towering writer who encouraged his entry into French letters.

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