The Struggle for Understanding

Elie Wiesel's Literary Works

Edited by Victoria Nesfield & Philip Smith

Subjects: Literary Criticism, Jewish Studies, Holocaust Studies, Religion
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Jewish Literature and Culture
Hardcover : 9781438475455, 316 pages, August 2019
Paperback : 9781438475462, 316 pages, July 2020

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Table of contents

Peppy Margolis

Victoria Nesfield and Philip Smith

Part I. Hasidic Origins

1. Between Fiction and Reality: Elie Wiesel’s Memoirs
Menachem Keren-Kratz

2. The Death of Humanity and the Need for a Glory Culture: The Existential Project of Elie Wiesel
Yakir Englander

3. The Role of the Four Prophet Figures in Night
Mary Catherine Mueller

Part II. The Other

4. Embracing Madness: Elie Wiesel’s Madmen and Their Role in His Works
Jennifer Murray

5. The Bystander in Elie Wiesel’s The Town Beyond the Wall
Christin Zühlke

6. Enduring Anti-Semitic Christian Scripts in Elie Wiesel’s The Gates of the Forest
Lucas Wilson

Part III. Theology and Tradition

7. Stories Untold: Theology, Language, and the Hasidic Spirit in Elie Wiesel’s The Gates of the Forest
Ariel Evan Mayse

8. Testifying, Writing, and Putting God in the Dock: Elie Wiesel and the Crisis of Traditional Theodicy
Federico Dal Bo

9. The Importance of Memory: Jewish Mysticism and Preserving History in Elie Wiesel’s The Forgotten
Eric J. Sterling

Part IV. Later Works

10. Transcultural Networks of Holocaust Memories in Elie Wiesel’s The Time of the Uprooted
Dana Miha˘ilescu

11. Wiesel’s Political Vision in Dawn, The Testament, and Hostage
Rosemary Horowitz

12. Allegories of the Holocaust in Elie Wiesel’s Late Fiction: The Forgotten, The Sonderberg Case, and Hostage
Sue Vice


An in-depth look at Elie Wiesel’s writings, from his earliest works to his final novels.


Elie Wiesel (1928–2016) was one of the most important literary voices to emerge from the Holocaust. The Nazis took the lives of most of his family, destroyed the community in which he was raised, and subjected him to ghettoization, imprisonment in Auschwitz and Buchenwald, and a death march. It is remarkable not only that Wiesel survived and found a way to write about his experiences, but that he did so with elegance and profundity. His novels grapple with questions of tradition, memory, trauma, madness, atrocity, and faith. The Struggle for Understanding examines Wiesel's literary, religious, and cultural roots and the indelible impact of the Holocaust on his storytelling. Grouped in sections on Hasidic origins, the role of the Other, theology and tradition, and later works, the chapters cover the entire span of Wiesel's career. Books analyzed include the novels Dawn, The Forgotten, The Gates of the Forest, The Town Beyond the Wall, The Testament, The Time of the Uprooted, The Sonderberg Case, and Hostage, as well as his memoir, Night. What emerges is a portrait of Wiesel's work in its full literary richness.

Victoria Nesfield is Research Coordinator in the Humanities Research Centre at the University of York, in the United Kingdom. Philip Smith is Professor of English at the Savannah College of Art and Design Hong Kong.


"Nesfield and Smith's collection of essays performs a great service for readers of the work of Elie Wiesel … Highly recommended." — CHOICE

"This is a marvelous collection. The essays are written by a new generation of scholars who have probed Elie Wiesel's work deeply and used the manifest tools of their many disciplines to explore some of the most pressing questions relating to the Holocaust, to memory, and to Wiesel himself. I was deeply impressed." — Michael Berenbaum, American Jewish University