Exploring the painful affinity between life and death, sanity and madness, Nobel Laureate Wiesel draws yet again on the experiences of the Holocaust to provide an answer. At the novel's center is Raphael Lipkin, a professor who, convinced he is going mad, seeks respite from his tortured imaginings in a mental clinic where he is both a temporary staff member, exploring the relationship between madness and prophecy, and a patient. Raphael's family has disappeared into the death camps, but although he speaks to them in his dreams, it is to his absent friend Pedro that he pours out his heart, for whom he searches among the madmen in the sanitarium. Guilt obsesses him, as it must all survivors, but the particularity of his guilt resides in Pedro, who gave his life or his sanity (which for Raphael are the same) in an effort to save Raphael's brother Yoel. Poignant though the recounted suffering must in fact have been, the canvas is too broad for any single player to kindle sympathy, the expression of emotion too overblown to bring tears. Torture, death, the violence of separation are recounted in cliche-ridden prose. Yet a lingering question manages to possess the reader: Is every survivor already half dead? (May)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988 Release date: 05/01/1988 Genre: Fiction
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