cover image The Forgotten

The Forgotten

Elie Wiesel. Summit Books, $20.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-68970-4

Nobel Peace Prize winner Wiesel ( Sages and Dreamers ) reprises the themes of memory and forgetting in this almost unbearably moving novel. Elhanan Rosenbaum, one of the few Jews in his Romanian village to have survived WW II, is a widower whose adored wife died giving birth to their only child. Decades later, he is losing his memory to an unspecified illness. Horrified at the possibility that all he has witnessed will be surrendered to oblivion, he entrusts his life's story--and the stories of the people he alone remembers--to his son, Malkiel, a reporter for the New York Times . At Elhanan's request, Malkiel travels to the Carpathian mountains to explore the mysteries that still confound his father. There he pores over the tombstones in the Jewish cemetery, the legacy of a once-thriving community, and meets the gravedigger. In one of the most poignant passages in an already tender novel, the gravedigger tells the story of the Great Reunion: as the Nazis deport the last Jews, the ghosts of the village's rabbinical judges convene to avenge the fate of their now-extinct congregation. Malkiel begins to comprehend the relations between memory and grace, courage and forgiveness. Here and there a sentence sinks into sentimentality (``Twenty years of sun, laughter, a free and savage joy, were inscribed on her fine and angular Oriental face''), but the integrity of Wiesel's respect for history and his recognition of its fragility give this novel an impact simple in its strength and complex in its dimensions. (Apr.)