Friday, January 11, 2013

Truth and Memory

I have been listening to the book "Night" by Elie Wiesel about his experience during the Holocaust.  It is extremely interesting and now I find there is a controversy about it's truthfulness.  I quote here from Wikepedia:

Truth and memory
Ruth Franklin writes that Night's "resuscitation" by Oprah Winfrey came at a difficult time for the genre of memoir, after a previous book-club author, James Frey, was found to have fabricated parts of his autobiography, A Million Little Pieces. She argues that Winfrey's endorsement of Wiesel's work was a canny move, perhaps designed to restore the book club's credibility with a book regarded as beyond criticism. She writes that Night has a useful lesson to teach about the complexities of memoir and memory, and that the story of how it came to be written reveals how many factors come into play in creating a memoir: "the obligation to remember and to testify, certainly, but also the artistic and even moral obligation to construct a true persona and to craft a beautiful work ... truth in prose, it turns out, is not always the same thing as truth in life."

Wiesel tells a story about a visit to a Rebbe, a Hasidic rabbi, he hadn't seen for 20 years. The Rebbe is upset to learn that Wiesel has become a writer, and wants to know what he writes. "Stories," Wiesel tells him, "... true stories":
About people you knew? "Yes, about people I might have known." About things that happened? "Yes, about things that happened or could have happened." But they did not? "No, not all of them did. In fact, some were invented from almost the beginning to almost the end." The Rebbe leaned forward as if to measure me up and said with more sorrow than anger: That means you are writing lies! I did not answer immediately. The scolded child within me had nothing to say in his defense. Yet, I had to justify myself: "Things are not that simple, Rebbe. Some events do take place but are not true; others are—although they never occurred."
Now I am wondering whether to listen to the other two books in the Trilogy...???   And whether I commit the same folly... or do we all????

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