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A Mad Desire to Danceby Elie Wiesel
Synopses & Reviews
From Elie Wiesel, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and one of our fiercest moral voices, a provocative and deeply thoughtful new novel about a life shaped by the worst horrors of the twentieth century and one mans attempt to reclaim happiness.
Doriel, a European expatriate living in New York, suffers from a profound sense of desperation and loss. His mother, a member of the Resistance, survived World War II only to die in an accident, together with his father, soon after. Doriel was a child during the war, and his knowledge of the Holocaust is largely limited to what he finds in movies, newsreels, and books—but it is enough. Doriels parents and their secrets haunt him, leaving him filled with longing but unable to experience the most basic joys in life. He plunges into an intense study of Judaism, but instead of finding solace, he comes to believe that he is possessed by a dybbuk.
Surrounded by ghosts, spurred on by demons, Doriel finally turns to Dr. Thérèse Goldschmidt, a psychoanalyst who finds herself particularly intrigued by her patient. The two enter into an uneasy relationship based on exchange: of dreams, histories, and secrets. Despite Doriels initial resistance, Dr. Goldschmidt helps to bring him to a crossroads—and to a shocking denouement.
In Doriels journey into the darkest regions of the soul, Elie Wiesel has written one of his most profoundly moving works of fiction, grounded always by his unparalleled moral compass.
"Nobel laureate Wiesel (Night) grapples with questions of madness, sadness and memory in this difficult but powerful novel. Doriel Waldman, a Polish Jew born in 1936, survived the occupation in hiding with his father while his mother made a reputation for herself in the Polish resistance. But he did not escape tragedy: his two siblings were murdered and his parents died in an accident shortly after the war. At the novel's opening, he is 60 years old, miserable, alone and on the verge of insanity. Most of the novel unfolds in the office of Doriel's shrink, Dr. Thrse Goldschmidt, where he reveals himself to be an uncooperative patient, and his aggressive, obsessive rants on the origins of his troubles make for difficult reading. But Wiesel handles the situation expertly, and as Thrse draws Doriel out, a multilayered narrative emerges: the journey through sadness and toward redemption; a meditation on the hand dealt to Holocaust survivors; and a valuable parable on the wages of human trauma. While the novel is not always easy sledding, there are ample rewards — intellectual and visceral — for the willing reader." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
When writers become statesmen — Gunter Grass, say, or Nadine Gordimer — it's easy to forget that they first connected to audiences in one-on-one encounters between author and reader. These days, we're more apt to regard the large-scale public face of Elie Wiesel: his Nobel Prize, his "Oprah" appearances, his condemnations of the Armenian and Darfur genocides, the news that his life savings were pillaged... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) by Bernard Madoff. We're less likely to remember that "Night," Wiesel's internationally best-selling Holocaust-survival memoir, was rejected in the late 1950s by major American publishers before it finally found a home, for a $100 advance, at a courageous then-independent house called Hill & Wang. The first print run of "Night" was 3,000 copies and took three years to sell. The publication of Wiesel's latest novel provides a good opportunity to return to that intimate connection that he first established with those few early readers of "Night." The book's style and themes will be familiar to those acquainted with his previous fiction (now 80, he has written more than 50 books), yet "A Mad Desire to Dance" shows the sensibility of a literary wanderer who has not finished searching for answers to his original anguished questions. The new novel's narrator is 60ish Doriel Waldman, himself a certain kind of spiritual wanderer. What Doriel asks, again and again, is how he, a Holocaust survivor, can hope for faith, equanimity or even sanity during a life "amputated" by overwhelming personal suffering and loss. Like other Wiesel protagonists, he's preoccupied with madness — his own and the world's — and he seeks treatment in the office of Therese Goldschmidt, a Jewish psychotherapist who also managed to survive the war. If nothing else, Doriel's sessions with his therapist prove how thoroughly unsatisfactory is the shorthand description "survivor." It's true that Doriel survived the war as a young child in Poland, hiding in a barn with his father while his mother, blond and passing as a gentile, traveled as a secret liaison for the Jewish Resistance. Yet for Doriel, survival has meant not triumph but a life painfully truncated. Most of his family died by the time he was 11: his two siblings as victims of the Nazis, and his parents in a car crash in France shortly after the war, preparing to make their way to Palestine. Since childhood Doriel has drifted, staying with an uncle in Brooklyn, wandering among yeshivas in New York and Jerusalem, spending time near his parents' graves in France, alighting in Manhattan. He never managed to maintain a strong connection to another person or to lay his ghosts to rest. For what purpose has he survived? For this empty pilgrimage? It's this mystery, and more, that Doriel dances fitfully around during his therapy sessions. There is also the question of where he acquired his considerable wealth, and the nagging suspicion, whose clues he has attempted to bury, that his mother may have had an affair during her Resistance missions. On the whole, his visits to Goldschmidt are mutually frustrating experiences. The doctor despairs of curing his bottomless despair, while the patient dodges unbearable truths in a filibuster of philosophizing and storytelling. Some of Doriel's stories are glancingly personal, touching on several of his doomed romantic relationships, or on his spectral reconnections with other survivors. Others are woven from classical Jewish texts, for Doriel is a serious and sometimes too-fervent scholar, giving lessons to adolescents on medieval Jewish history. He's been taught that memory is the cornerstone of his religion — over and over again in their liturgy, faithful Jews exhort themselves never to forget — but how can one live within that faith if forgetting is the only way to endure? This is a ruthless book, with little of the redemptive spirit that American readers have grown attached to in tales of the Holocaust. It's a difficult story, moreover, told in a difficult way, deliberately discursive and without regard for chronology. Its purpose is to disorient the reader, echoing Doriel's psychological dislocation, wandering as he wanders. The translation provides additional obstacles, distancing readers from the story with distracting word choices ("fecundated"?) and calcified dialogue. Surprisingly, though, despite these impediments, a reader willing to navigate the thickets will find rewards. The novel's grim satisfactions lie in a sense of shared responsibility between teller and listener, a confidential yet far-reaching partnership that began four decades ago with "Night." "I tell my students and my readers," Wiesel has said, "that whoever reads or listens to a witness becomes a witness." Reviewed by Donna Rifkind, who is a book reviewer based in Los Angeles, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
From the Nobel laureate author of "Night" comes a searing new novel about a man whose life is shaped by his changing grasp of the horrors of the 20th century.
A novel in stories by acclaimed Israeli author Amos Oz.
“Informed by everything, weighed down by nothing, this is an exquisite work of art.” —The Scotsman
Strange things are happening in Tel Ilan, a century-old pioneer village. A disgruntled retired politician complains to his daughter that he hears the sound of digging at night. Could it be their tenant, that young Arab? But then the young Arab hears the digging sounds too. Where has the mayors wife gone, vanished without trace, her note saying “Dont worry about me”? Around the village, the veneer of new wealth—gourmet restaurants, art galleries, a winery—barely conceals the scars of war and of past generations: disused air raid shelters, rusting farm tools, and trucks left wherever they stopped. Scenes from Village Life is a memorable novel-in-stories by the inimitable Amos Oz: a brilliant, unsettling glimpse of what goes on beneath the surface of everyday life.
Translated from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange
A portrait of a fictional village, by one of the worlds most admired writers In the village of Tel Ilan, something is off kilter. An elderly man complains to his daughter that he hears the sound of digging under his house at night. Could it be his tenant, a young Arab? But then the tenant hears the mysterious digging sounds too. The mayor receives a note from his wife: "Dont worry about me." He looks all over, no sign of her. The veneer of new wealth around the villagegourmet restaurants and art galleries, a winerycannot conceal abandoned outbuildings, disused air raid shelters, rusting farm tools, and trucks left wherever they stopped. Amos Ozs novel-in-stories is a brilliant, unsettling glimpse of what goes on beneath the surface of everyday life.Scenes from Village Lifeis a parable for Israel, and for all of us.
About the Author
Elie Wiesel is the author of more than fifty books, both fiction and nonfiction. In 1986 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Since 1976, he has been the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University. He lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
Heirs • 1
Relations • 19
Digging • 39
Lost • 83
Waiting • 109
Strangers • 129
Singing • 153
In a faraway place at another time • 175
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