OPEN HEART. Elie Wiesel. Alfred A. Knopf. 79 pages. $20.
Elie Wiesel’s “Open Heart,” will remind many readers of John Milton’s “When I Consider How My Light is Spent.”
At the time they were writing, Milton was and Wiesel is faced with life-changing afflictions. Milton was struck by blindness, which threatened to end his writing career. And Wiesel is rushed, totally unexpectedly, into emergency open-heart surgery.
Each man, however, has the presence of mind to stop and consider how he has used his talents up to the present time despite the affliction and suffering he has endured.
Ostensibly a collection of Wiesel’s thoughts on facing open-heart surgery, thoughtful readers will be prompted to also reflect on how they have used their own abilities thus far in life despite the obstacles fate may have cruelly placed in the way.
As Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, asks himself: Have I been truthful, have I written enough, have I shared enough of my experience or have I shared too much? Later he writes, “Have we used our words to curse or to heal, to wound or to console.”
Such self-evaluation is rare at a time when people race to complete their sky-diving and Mardi Gras blowout “bucket lists.”
His hopeful outlook, however dark his life experiences have been, is inspiring and a worthy companion to new year introspection.
In addition, readers new to or previously intimidated by Wiesel’s erudition and emotional depth should take advantage of this brief work to sample his admirable and unceasing faith in human beings despite the multitude of ways, as he has witnessed, we go so wrong.
Reviewer Hayden Donehue Shook is a returned Peace Corps volunteer and teaches English as a Second Language in Charleston.