I was first introduced to Elie Wiesel several years ago through his incredible book “Night” while preparing for a mission trip to Cambodia with Ron and Mark. It was recently suggested to me that I look at some of his other works, namely, “Twilight”. It is no “Night”, but it was not bad.
“Twilight” tells the story of Raphael, an obsessed Jewish literature professor and Holocaust survivor, on a quest. His search and a mysterious late night caller land him in a psychiatric ward, not as patient, but as a visiting professor. He is searching in part for Pedro; his friend, mentor, and rescuer. Pedro slipped from Raphael’s life years and he believes that Pedro is his key to understanding truth and fiction. He is also searching for truth in a world of insanity. But what place does a literature professor have as a guest researcher at a mental hospital? The answer comes at least partially in the clientele of this particular facility. During his visit, he encounters a variety of Biblical characters: Adam, Cain, Abraham, Joseph, Jesus, and others. At least that is who this deranged cast believe themselves to be. This is an interesting, possibly artistic approach but I had a hard time figuring out how it added to the book. Wiesel provides enough madness in his retelling of the holocaust. To me, the insanity of the Biblically based asylum patients, although interesting themselves, were a weak addition and did not quite fit.
Wiesel is an amazing storyteller. “Twilight” is written as a series of flashbacks that keep you engaged but frustrated and clueless as to where the adventure is headed. He does an excellent job of pulling the reader into the true horrors of what Jews experienced during the Holocaust: persecution, imprisonment, torture, and families torn apart. Unfortunately, the problem is that at the end of the book there is no resolution to the well-told story. He does not provide answers to the tragedy or resolve his quest for truth. Maybe this is by design. Wiesel’s aim is more for the reader to examine the questions he is posing.
It is evident in his writing that he is a man with a tragic past. He is an atheist desperately seeking truth; truth about struggles, pain, faith, life and existence. He challenges God about how such atrocities and tragedy can occur. When you do not see the Truth, speculation and question asking is all that you can do.