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 man's 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. Doriel's 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 Doriel's initial resistance, Dr. Goldschmidt helps to bring him to a crossroads--and to a shocking denouement.
In Doriel's 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. Thérèse 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 Thérèse 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. (Feb.)
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1 . BRILLIANT: Mindful
Posted March 21, 2009 by Claire , Luzern, Switzerland and Vancouver BC, CAWhile I've long known of Elie Wiesel, I've not had the joy of reading his work. That oversight is now being remedied.
I discovered the hard way not to release the 'bookmark' on my Sony Reader after 21.00 with this book. If i did so, one of two things was sure to happen; I'd read until I fell asleep and my fiance would remove my glasses and turn the reader off, or long after putting the book down,t my mind would race to remember while my heart tumbled following one his his brilliantly woven threads, universal thoughts that bind us one and all to the frail and fallible human family.
My heart force my fingers to bookmark 'significant' passages, pages overflowing with thoughts to be re-read and retained. Upon coming to the last line, and turning the pageless page, upon seeing 87 bookmarks, I realized it was already past time to begin reading this book again.
In challenging times of this and any epoch, the mind, heart and spirit long for true nourishment, the absence of people or things in and of the world failing as they inevitably do, to fill the empty spaces.
A Mad Desire to Dance fills previously unrecognizable gaps, through what is a richly textured tapestry of his culture and tradition, he turns readers toward their own, returning the Music to a world now stunned into silence.
Bravo Elie Wiesel.
My life is richer because you remain and the universal soul moves your fingers to dance.
February 16, 2009
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Excerpt from A Mad Desire to Dance by Elie Wiesel
She has dark eyes and the smile of a frightened child. I searched for her all my life. Was it she who saved me from the silent death that characterizes resignation to solitude? And from madness in its terminal phase, terminal as we refer to cancer when incurable? Yes, the kind of madness in which one can find refuge, if not salvation? Madness is what I’ll talk to you about—madness burdened with memories and with eyes like everyone else’s, though in my story the eyes are like those of a smiling child trembling with fear. You’ll ask: Is a madman who knows he’s mad really mad? Or: In a mad world, isn’t the madman who is aware of his madness the only sane person? But let’s not rush ahead. If you had to describe a madman, how would you portray him? As a marblefaced stranger? Smiling but without joy, his nerves on edge; when he goes into a trance, his limbs move about and all his thoughts collide; time and again, he has electrical discharges, not in his brain but in his soul. Do you like this portrait? Let’s continue. How can we talk about madness except by using the specific language of those who carry it within themselves? What if I told you that within each of us, whether in good health or bad, there is a hidden zone, a secret region that opens out onto madness? One misstep, one unfortunate blow of fate, is enough to make us slip or flounder with no hope of ever rising up again. Careless mistakes, an impaired memory or errors of judgment, can provoke a series of falls. It then becomes impossible to make ourselves understood by those we call—rather foolishly—kindred souls. If you will not grant me this, I will have a serious problem, but you must not feel sorry for me. Tears sometimes leave furrows, but never very deep ones—in any case, not deep enough. There, this is what you have to know for a start. That said, since I’m eager to tell you everything, you should know that I’ll be telling you this story without any concern for chronology. You’ll be made to discover many different periods of time and many different places in a haphazard fashion. What can I say? The madman’s time is not always the same as the so-called normal man’s. For instance, let’s begin this narrative five years ago, in the office of Thérèse Goldschmidt, a healer of souls, well paid—I’ll tell you how well later—thanks to her vast knowledge. She expects to prod me into knowing the dark, innermost recesses of my ego, in order to help me live with myself without my dybbuk, but that’s an assumption to which I plan to return. Later on I’ll talk to you about Thérèse; I’ll talk about her at length. Inevitable Thérèse, there is no way around her. She’s the one who made me talk. It’s her profession. She spends her life probing the unconscious—that strongbox and trash bin of knowledge and experience, those subterranean archives that can and must be deciphered—and asking childish or harebrained questions. And in my case, these questions summoned not answers but stories. Why do people make fun of madmen? Because they upset people? Didn’t Molière mock the hypochondriac? Doesn’t the man who believes he is ill need treatment? Am I way off the beam? I don’t think I’m completely irrational. Is being mad being disabled? Can one speak of a gana mad desire to dance grened mind, of thought beaten to death, of a mutilated, damned soul? Can one be mad in happiness as in misfortune? Can someone take vows of madness as one takes religious vows, or devotes one’s life to poetry? Can a person slip breathlessly into madness with a slow, muffled