MONDAY

I once taught Elie Wiesel’s Night to ninth-graders at an American school in Rome. Among my students were a German boy and an Israeli girl. In their cool reaction to the material, and to each other, unspoken accusations and cultural resentments simmered. The German boy told me that talking about the Holocaust made people think that Germans—all Germans—were monsters. The accusation was just there, implied on the face of the Israeli girl, and in the meandering and sometimes pat ways kids learn about the Holocaust. Such accusations are, of course, largely bullshit. Night cut right through all that: Simple, direct, and confrontational, it gives both the supposed monsters and their victims humanity. Now Wiesel has a new offering, After the Darkness: Reflections on the Holocaust, a coffee-table book that is part reflection, part history. Spiked with powerful photographs from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and testimonials from survivors, Wiesel’s narrative takes us from the emergence of Hitler through to today. It is impossible not to be affected by the material—particularly the testimonials—which recount memories of fear, hiding, and untimely death. But this time, Wiesel’s signature simplicity does not serve him nearly so well: He barely scratches the historical surface, providing the reader scant narrative context and falling back on generic, overwrought prose (“the dark side of the human heart”) to gussy up material that will never need such flourishes. Wiesel is here at 12:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25, at the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW. $35. For reservations call (202) 662-7501. (Brian Montopoli)

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