'I MEAN TO RECOUNT NOT THE STORY OF MY LIFE, BUT MY STORIES. THROUGH THEM YOU MAY PERHAPS UNDERSTAND THE REST A LITTLE BETTER. SOME SEE THEIR WORK AS A COMMENTARY ON THEIR LIFE; FOR OTHERS IT IS THE OTHER WAY AROUND. I COUNT MYSELF AMONG THE LATTER. CONSIDER THIS ACCOUNT, THEN, AS A KIND OF COMMENTARY.'
'All Rivers Run to the Sea' is a memoir of the novelist and Nobel prize-winner Elie Wiesel. It begins with his childhood in the village of Sighet on the Romanian-Hungarian border, a sanctuary for Jews for since the mid-seventeenth century. Despite occasional attacks from local anti-Semitic thugs, Sighet was, for Wiesel, a reassuring place of contentment and piety.
When the Nazis came in 1944, Wiesel's childhood ended overnight. He was taken with his family and transported, first to Auschwitz where, in the midst of the horrors of that place, he at last came to know the remote figure of his father, whose death he later witnessed in Buchenwald. He survived the Holocaust and emerged from the camps, aged sixteen, bloodless and numb. In his account of those years – and the decades that followed – a remarkable life unfolds.
He is comforted by the discovery that his two sisters, Hilda and Bea, have also survived. We sense, through his struggle with his God, his sorties into philosophy, literature and the Talmud, Wiesel gradually returning to life. Then Paris, and the discovery of his métier, the written word. As a young journalist Wiesel covered the tangle of conflicts surrounding Israel's nascent statehood, the formative years of the United Nations and the Eichmann trial, and travelled, among other places, to America, Brazil and India. In the late 1950s he wrote his international best-seller, 'Night', and at last found his voice – as a witness. His work thereafter has been consecrated to the remembrance of victims and the defence of survivors and oppressed peoples everywhere.
Wiesel recounts the stories of his life simply, but with passion, candour and humanity. His book is also a commentary upon the profound abstractions from and within which we try to make sense of our lives – language and silence, remembering and forgetting, belief and doubt, God and justice. This marriage of narrative and reflection is just one of the elements that makes 'All Rivers Run to the Sea' one of the great and emblematic memoirs of the twentieth century.
Elie Wiesel is the author of more than thirty books, including 'Night, The Accident, A Beggar in Jerusalem' (winner of the Prix Médicis), 'The Forgotten' and 'From the Kingdom of Memory'. He has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States Congressional Gold Medal, the French Legion of Honour and, in 1986, the Nobel Peace Prize. He is Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities and University Professor at Boston University. Most of his books have been translated into English by his wife, Marion. The Wiesels live in New York City with their son, Elisha.
''All Rivers Run to the Sea' [contains] forceful and impassioned narratives that possess the subterranean power of a parable, narratives that open out into a commentary on the world, even as they relate the particulars of Mr Wiesel's own life… We finish 'All Rivers' with a profound sense of how an entire community was brutally erased by the Nazis without warning, how abruptly the mundane business of work and study and play gave way to unimaginable horror. At the same time, we are left to wonder at the strange trajectory of Mr Wiesel's own life, which took a painfully shy boy from an isolated village, sent him to hell and back as a witness, and eventually thrust him on a world stage, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.'
MICHIKO KAKUTANI, 'New York Times'
'There is, it should be pointed out, happiness in the story he has to tell, as well as sadness; humor as well as horror. Part of the delight of his memoir lies in witnessing the gradual transformation of the broken-hearted, orphaned boy into the spirited journalist who longs to embrace the world at large, and who, at times, does.'
REBECCA GOLDSTEIN, 'Newsday'
'Stately yet lyrical, poetic without being dreamy… Wiesel remains unequaled at bringing home the experience of horrific, nullifying disorientation that was the first step in the program of genocide known as the Final Solution.'
DAPHNE MERKIN, 'New York Times Book Review'