Reviews: Night


I've been over Holocausted in my academic life. Yet another book to read? It better be good. It's not.

It meant nothing to me. Now don't get me wrong. By itself, Night offers deep insight into the lives of the prisoners. But as a collective part of the Holocaust sub-genre, it's generic. I have failed to get anything new out of it. I have also failed to see why human suffering gets you those millions of copies sold and all that critical praise. Maybe it's the fact that people survived and are inspirational because of that, but I still fail to see why people like it.

I mean, the main character of Night doesn't exactly do anything inspirational. Sure, there's lots of psychological survival that goes on, and there's even a sort of internal battle between the will to live and the urge to die, and while that's certainly an example of the human spirit, how does that relate to my life to inspire me or anyone else? How is "just keep going" supposed to help the college student pay off student loans or get me into a competitive field? Sure, you could "just keep going" at your job to pay those loans and study hard to get ahead of other potential job applicants, but alas, some people just go and fail.

Want a truly inspirational story? Check out Apollo 13. You and ground control are in a crisis, with you running out of oxygen after an explosion throws you for a loop. You will improvise an air filter from your space suit. You will make the do-or-die decision to slingshot around the Moon. You will do complex math without a calculator so you can manually steer your ship at just the right angle for proper reentry. You will survive.

Not by luck or some vague "Hang in there!" pluck, but pure human skill. Apollo 13 is the story of people doing the impossible and avoiding the unimaginable through competent decision making, genius intelligence, and world-class technique. Night is a story of a guy surviving because other people gave him bread and the guards didn't pick him to die. The most ingenious thing he did was figure out that you could eat snow to not die of dehydration. I am inspired by Apollo 13 because it tells me that with training, education, and skill, I can get through any obstacle. I am not inspired by a tale of starvation, disease, hard labor, and genocide.