The 10-Book Challenge: Book #8

Night by Elie Wiesel

I was poking around in my departmental office recently and came across a boxful of this book. It had been the selection for the Readership WT program three years ago. I hadn’t read this since high school, so I grabbed a copy (I’m faculty — I can do that) and took it home.

This is one of the most widely read books on the planet, so you don’t need a recap from me. But I’ll tell you why I decided to put it on my current list.

This week saw another flare up between North and South Korea. It reminded me of a book I read while I was living in Seoul — Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag by Kang Chol-Hwan. Wiesel’s and Kang’s similar experiences in labor camps controlled by oppressive regimes struck me.

Wiesel’s Night is a testament to the need to tell these kinds of stories, and we think of them as necessary so that we, as humans, “never forget.” We’re supposed to learn from these events, right? But around the same time Wiesel was accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in the mid 1980s — some 40 years after his experiences — Kang was himself barely surviving the meat grinder that North Korea continues to be.

It’s frustrating. And that’s one of many reasons why I highly recommend both of these books.

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