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by Elie Wiesel

Professor Raphael Lipkin checks into a clinic for patients believing themselves to be characters from the Bible and ancient history to explore the relationship between madness and prophecy, but he is soon drawn into the patients' irrational world
Download Twilight (English and French Edition) epub
ISBN: 0671644076
ISBN13: 978-0671644079
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Literary
Author: Elie Wiesel
Language: English French
Publisher: Summit Books; First Edition edition (May 1, 1988)
Pages: 217 pages
ePUB size: 1710 kb
FB2 size: 1124 kb
Rating: 4.7
Votes: 522
Other Formats: txt lrf rtf mbr

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This was a difficult book to rate. It is, to begin with, a fairly short novel; just over 200 pages. I felt one of the problems with this book was that the author moved us around too much in time, place and character. The brevity of the book made this confusing. We're one place then another before we got settled in with the former. The basic plot of the book is challenging but worth the effort to try and follow. A doctor (Raphael)who was a youthful survivor of the Holocaust is trying to come to understand his experiences. Through him we meet a wide array of characters of whom the most important is a man nicknamed Pedro. Raphael is in a search for Pedro and for meaning to the horrors that are beyond meaning. There is an irony in the duality of his search. On one level Raphael searches for a real savior that he has lost. On the other level, he searches for the savior that was never there. In the end he encounters both. We are left unfulfilled. Having gone this far with him, we expect more. We want a clear answer, a happy ending. We get neither and, in this ambiguity, we get a sense of Holocaust reality; there is no meaning, there is no happy ending. Night represents evil, day represents good. In the twilight lies the madness.
This novel moves along slowly for the first three-quarters. But it picks up very quickly and becomes a very compelling read as Wiesel begins to introduce the character of Pedro, the novel's idealized hero who is present from the beginning but never escapes the memory of the protagonist, Raphael, to take the page as a living character. Pedro, who was known as Pinhas in Poland, earned his name in the Spanish Civil War, where he had gone to fight in the years before the Holocaust. After the war, he becomes a kind of secret agent for devastated Jewry, working with others to bring the survivors together and set them on their new life.
Painted in the tradition of the near messianic hero, familiar to readers of Mordecai Richler's "Solomon Gursky Was Here" and perhaps to a lesser degree Saul Bellow's "Humboltd's Gift," Pedro is instantly admirable and the reader shares Raphael's feeling for him. Wiesel uses Pedro as a character of unbridled potential who is never allowed to reach it, and is banished to the realm of Raphael's memory. In a novel about the Holocaust, that works to great effect because clearly there were many real "Pedros" who were either killed in the concentration camps or could not survive in the aftermath of the Holocaust.
This is a novel about memory and madness; the memory of those who died in the Holocaust and the madness of the hate that caused their deaths.
Along the way, we meet a character who stares at the sky trying to find the lost six million in the clouds and the stars, and there are some other excellent character portraits. But Wiesel also introduces a host of mad inmates of an insane asylum who think they are biblical figures. That last part is what the novel could have done without. These crazy want-to-be biblical figures are very unbelievable, especially compared to the more sane characters of Raphael, his wife Tiara and Pedro.
Instead, we get the sense that Wiesel is using these characters as a way to weave Midrash, or biblical legends, into a modern novel. Although it is an ambitious experiment, it falls flat for lack of believability.
Ultimately, the novel does well to explore the Holocaust as a kind of all-encompassing madness. It at times can be an engrossing read. And the pages that challenge God on how He could have allowed the Holocaust to happen are worth anyone's read. But it would have been a better book without much of the material set in the insane asylum.
The novel does finish well and leaves you with a glimpse of light beyond the Holocaust. And a good use of naming gives the reader the impression that even Pedro, nee Pinhas, could come back. According to some Jewish legends, Pinhas is in fact Elijah, the great prophet who never died.
When he followed up the novel "Night" with the sequel "Dawn," Wiesel explored how life can go on after the Holocaust without turning one's back on the horror of that worst period in human history. "Twilight" continues that theme but makes it more accessible to the average reader by setting the survivor in everyday life, instead of in the life and death struggles of nascent Israel.
This was my 1st Wiesel work and I did not find it to be "perplexing" or "weird". Actually, I found it to be a quite sane story depicting one of the 20th centuries' most perplexing events.
For readers who have thought previously about the various shades of madness and those who find themselves afflicted (Robert Persig's 'Lila' as an example) and for readers who have spent any time reflecting on the inexcapable impact of the Holocaust on survivors and their next generation...then 'Twilight' is a mystical and brutally real novel depicting the terror of just one family out of the countless thousands.
Twilight seeks to explore the relationship between God and his creation in the context of a mental assylum whereby the accusation of God's insanity in the wake of the Holocaust is juxta-opposed against God's care. The book is filled with wonderful characters in the assylum who 'double' in their insanity as characters from Hebrew Scripture - Adam, Joseph, Cain, Abraham, the Messiah and God. The book is somewhat complicated in that the deepest questions concerning the nature of God and humanity are explored while historic 'flash backs' break up the intensity to tell the real struggle of the main character and his family under the Nazi regime. The book is written with an intense passion and stimulates emotions and arguments and insights concerning God's relationship to humanity in the light of the holocaust from all angles. God is seen as omni-present but veiled, simultaneously imminant and transcendent. Many times the question WHY? is thrown at God and options of God's insanity, cruelty, indifference and usury are expressed. Finally, the accusation of God's insanity in relation to the hohlocaust is defended through the patient who beleives himself to be God - 'When exactly was I suppose to stop it? Go on, tell me'
The novel evokes sympathy for God as a concluding note and in the face of anger and accusation because of the holocaust we are left with an unveiled God in tears and pain through the accusation 'you could have stopped it - you should have stopped it'.
This is a short novel the weaves a masterful tapestry of emotions, history, theology, accusation and theodicy. It's setting in a clinic is unique, the patients are loveable, understandable. Wiesel leads the reader to be on everyone's side, in everyone's shoes. A stunning novel - well worth coming to terms with and reading over and over again.