“How does one describe the indescribable?” -Elie Wiesel
EXCEEDINGLY RARE FIRST EDITION OF ELIE WIESEL’S MASTERPIECE, GENERALLY CONSIDERED “THE MOST POWERFUL LITERARY EXPRESSION OF THE HOLOCAUST.”
THIS TRUE FIRST EDITION, APPEARING IN THE ORIGINAL YIDDISH AND PUBLISHED IN BUENOS AIRES, PRECEDES THE MUCH-ABRIDGED FIRST EUROPEAN VERSION (LA NUIT) BY TWO YEARS.
“In essays and in his autobiography, too, Elie Wiesel tells how he vowed after liberation in 1945 that he would remain silent for 10 years, to make certain that what he was going to say would be true—and during this time to unite the language of man with the silence of the dead. In 1954, on board a ship sailing from France to Brazil, he wrote down his memoirs, ‘to testify, to stop the dead from dying, to justify my own survival.’ In Buenos Aires he gave this manuscript, written in Yiddish, to the publisher Mark Turkow, who published it in 1956 as ... און די וועלט האָט געשוויגן (…Un di Velt Hot Geshvign; And the World Remained Silent). Wiesel reworked his account and cut it down heavily for the French version, called La Nuit (Engl. Night, 1960), which was published by Éditions de Minuit in 1958...
“The Yiddish account appeared as the 117th volume in a series called דאָס פּוילישע יידנטום (Dos Poylishe Yidntum; Polish Jewry), in which several other survivor testimonies had already appeared. Thus he took his place in an already existing genre—Yiddish memoirs of the Holocaust—which placed great value on documentation, on historical details and giving the names of victims of the Holocaust. The French edition, by contrast, lacks this genre-specific background and speaks to a mostly Christian audience, and the historical, documentary aspect recedes here in favor of the literary...” (website for the Wollheim Memorial; headline quote from Britannica).
In a 1978 interview published in A Jew Today (New York: Random House, 1978), Wiesel vividly explained his struggles in writing his memoir and why he waited until ten years after his liberation to provide a record of his experience:
“I knew that the role of the survivor was to testify. Only I did not know how. I lacked experience. I lacked a framework. I mistrusted the tools, the procedures. Should one say it all or hold it all back? Should one shout or whisper? Place the emphasis on those who were gone or on their heirs? How does one describe the indescribable? How does one use restraint in re-creating the fall of mankind and the eclipse of the gods? And then, how can one be sure that the words, once uttered, will not betray, distort the message they bear? So heavy was my anguish that I made a vow: not to speak, not to touch upon the essential for at least ten years. Long enough to see clearly. Long enough to listen to the voices crying inside my own. Long enough to regain possession of my memory. Long enough to unite the language of man with the silence of the dead.”
Buenos Aires: Union Central Israelita Polaca en la Argentina, 1956. pp. 253. Octavo, almost certainly the original black and brown cloth with gilt titles on spine and front board; housed in custom box. Small, very neat owner signature on front free endpaper. Cloth with very light wear, text block with a hint of a lean; text in fine condition.
EXTREMELY RARE: WE CAN LOCATE NO PUBLIC SALE RECORDS AND ONLY A FEW RECORDS FOR INSTITUTIONAL HOLDINGS. .
Price: $22,000 .