Elie Wiesel, Open Heart (New York: Knopf, 2012), 79pp.
On June 16, 2011, Elie Wiesel went to the doctor with chest pains. When tests showed five blocked arteries, doctors wheeled him straight to the operating room for open heart surgery. Once again, Wiesel had escaped death. The experience of being "on the threshold of the beyond, the great portal," gave rise to this little volume. As you would expect, Wiesel relives his life with Marion, his wife of forty-plus years, his son Elisha, and his two grandchildren. There are also his hopes and dreams of current and future projects.
Wiesel also turns to ultimate matters. "As I face the gravity of this moment, I feel the need to search my soul." He wonders, "Am I ready? Have I done enough?" Has anyone ever done enough that they feel ready? And where is God in all the pain and suffering, both his and all the world? "Now that I am confined to the hospital bed, that question arises again, obsesses me as it haunts all I have written. And, lover of insoluble philosophical problems that I am, I remain frustrated."
Wiesel reaffirms the faith of his forbears. God is found in the questions, he says, as well as in the answers. However much we feel abandoned by God and betrayed by humanity, "I believe that we must not give up on either." We can choose hope over despair, peace instead of violence, and beauty over ugliness. In all the darkness we can live as light, amidst all the suffering we can offer compassion. And in the last sentence of the book a ringing affirmation: "I know that eternities ago, the day after the liberation, when some of us had to choose between anger and gratitude, my choice was the right one."