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,  -- _  . _ _i - ! llII HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 8, 2009 PAGE 15A By Sandee Brawarsky New York Jewish Week In Elie Wiesel's latest novel. madness is palpable. This is the madness that comes from an excess of memory, a madness that is the opposite of the nightmare of losing one's memory. "A Mad Desire to Dance" {Knopf), the Nobel laureate's 49th book, is the story of Doriel Waldman, a man in his 60s living in New York City. He survived the Holocaust as a child, hidden along with his father, while his blond mother passed freely on the outside and worked for the Resistance. His parents survived, butsoon after the war were killed in a car crash. When the novel opens. Doriel, whose name means "'generation of God." is reflecting and musing and dreaming, recognizing his madness. "Madness is what I'll talk to you about--madness bur- dened with memories and with eyes like everyone else's. though in my story the eyes are like those of a smiling child trembling with fear," Wieselwrites. Doriel speaks of himself as "a kind of madman whose soul has been amputat- ed, in search of his excessively rich and burdensome past, so he won't see it extinguished before his death." This is a novel not driven by plot, but by memory. The perils of 'never forget' D0riel's iife stories unfold as he recalls moments, episodes and people. "Memory," Doriel muses. "'moves forward or backward in fits and starts." Ultimately a psychoanalyst helps him to sort through the layers of painful memories, to understand his family's secrets and even to find love. Translated from the French by Catherine Temerson, the novel is soulful and po- etic. with beautiful turns of phrase. Questions that have no answers come up in many sentences. Last month. I met with the distinguished author, professor and activist at the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity of- fice in Manhattan. At his desk. a photograph of his hometown of Sighet, in the Carpathian Mountains, hangs just above his computer screen. "I always want to know where I come from." he says. In his office, he engages with the world, his memories, stories and Jewish texts. Now 80. he begins each day with prayer and study before he turns to writing. Wiesel has written novels, nonfiction books, memoir and children's books. The cast of characters, he notes, is always the same there's always a madman--but the spotlight is different. He says, "By shifting the spotlight we do justice to the person who was in the shadows until now." Memory is selective, if we remembered everything, it would be too much," Wiesel's protagonist says in ",4 Mad Desire to Dance." When asked why he writes novels, he explains that, "Some things can only be expressed in fiction." "Awriter," he says, "has his own universe," not only a style of writing. He would want someone to be able to pick up one of his books with the cover ripped off, read a paragraph or two and recognize the writer as Elie Wiesel. He writes, in Doriel's voice. "Memory is selective. If we remembered everything, it would be too much." As Doriel is suffering, he is referred to a psychoanalyst, who is the only daughter of Holocaust survivors; her notes, like de- tective work, are part of the narrative. The author says that while he has never been analyzed himself, he studied psychopathology in Paris. "To me. memory is a com- fort." Wiesel says, "The su- preme necessity. What would I do without me.mory?" He says that one of his previ- ous novels, "The Forgotten." which deals with the loss of memory, is among the sad- dest of his books. He kept the manuscript in a drawer for years before publishing it. This new novel has a mood of mystical nostalgia, longing for the messiah. Characters-- even those who don't believe in God--wait for a messianic moment. This book has more love stories than his other novels, and Wiesel quotes Ga- briel Garcia Marquez that one doesn't stop loving because one is old, thatone is oldwhen one stops loving. The title hints at the novel's positive turn, as it ends on a hopeful note. The jacket features a captivating 1949 Robert Doisneau photograph of a couple dancing on a French street at night. The author admits that he has never danced in his life, other than with the Torah on Sim- chat Torah. His 50th book, a novel, has already been published in France. Among the new books he has in the works is a biography of Rashi for the Nextbook series. Wiesel grew up hearing that his own fam- ily had descended from the 11th-century biblical com- mentator. For the moment, he says, his foundation is devastated by losses from investments with Bernard Madoff, but it's not giving up. "I'm not allowing this scoundrel to destroy what we have built," he says, very grateful for the overwhelming response of people. The foun- dation has not solicited funds to rebuild, but has received hundreds of individual dona- tions, some in small amounts. with many of these donors expressing outrage. A 10-year- old sent his Chanukah money. "That's the uplifting part," Wiesel notes. He has been pursued by many television stations to speak out, but says, "I don't want my name to be associated with his. My name should be linked to Jewish stories, to study." Sandee Brawarsky is the book critic for the Jewish Week, from which this article was reprinted by permission. Survivor's memoir recalls horrific but 'lucky' childhood By Dan Pine j.' the Jewish weekly-of northern California SAN FRANCISCOWhen it comes to the Holocaust, Thomas Buergenthal has a mission: to "denumerize" it. "It's always the 6 million," the Czech-born JewishAmeri- can said. "It doesn't mean anything. Here at least you can see what the Holocaust meant to one small family." By "here," Buergenthal means his memoir, "A Lucky Child," which recounts his harrowing childhood fleeing the Nazis and then surviving hellholes like Sachsenhausen and Auschwitz. He appeared /pril 22 at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club to speak about his experience. For most of his 75 years, Buergenthal has been a law professor and judge. He serves on the International Court of Justice in The Hague, dividing his time between the Neth- erlands-and his Washington D.C., home. He is considered one of the world's" leading au- thorities on human rights law. As a child, he experienced the ultimate violation of hu- man rights. Despite the horror, Buer- gen-thalsees himselfaslucky. Time and time again, he avert- ed death in the camps. Both he and his mother survived, though his father perished days before liberation. For Buergenthal, luck was not "the residue of design" (as Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey once put it). Luck for him was pure chance. He and his mother could have died a thousand different times during the war. if not for random factors. Like being sent straight to Auschwitz rather than Birke- nau, the next-door death fac- tory, whichwould have meant certain liquidation. Or the time his mother, (;erda Buergenthal, stood in line at the Auschwitz selec- tion (turn left, you lived; turn right and you went to the gas chambers). The notorious Dr. Josef Mengele noticed she had a thyroid condition. "She looked him in the eye," Buergenthal recalled, "and said to him in perfect German, 'You're a master diagnostician, doctor.' He spared her." During an interview while he was in San Francisco on a book tour, Buergenthal disclosed that he did mini- mal research for his memoir, preferring to rely on memory. Thus he tells his survivor's tale through the eyes of a child. "For me, the onlyway to tell the story was as I experienced it, "he said. "This story was in me from the beginning, as the story of a child." The son of a Polish hotelier father and German mother, Buergenthal's first 10 years were happy. Once the war started, he and his family nearly escaped Europe for England, but the Germans bombed the rail lines. The family went intact from ghetto to Nazi work camp. Buergenthal always managed to find little jobs like park- ing bicycles-,that elicited more adult protection. Even in the death camps, when he was on his own, he found work in or near a kitchen, ek- ing out extra food. "Kids are resourceful when they need to be," he said. With the Allies closing in, the S. S. forced the inmates of his camp on a death march in the dead of winter. During a transport on a train. Buer- genthal says he would have starved had Czech citizens not thrown loaves of bread into his open cattle car. After the war, he found shelter serving as a mascot with a Polish army unit. He ended up in a Polish orphan- age for Jewish children, and it took nearly two years for his mother to find him. But their luck held out, and the two were reunited. In 1951 he moved to the United States. The Holocaust influenced Buergenthal's choice of career. He has served-on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the U. N. Human Rights Committee, and also sat on the board of the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Council, which spearheaded the museum in Washington, D.C. In his role on the Inter- national Court of Justice, Buergenthal cast a dissenting vote when the issue of Israel's security barrier came up in 2004. The court ruled that Israel violated international law in the routing of the wall. "I was the sole dissenter." he said, "not necessarily be- cause I am a Jew. It was what I feel I had to do. We didn't get enough information on which parts of the wall were important for self- defense. For the court to say the entire wall is illegal is a big jump." Today he admires and ad- heres to Jewish ethics. A few weeks ago he attended the bat mitzvah of a granddaughter in Baltimore, which he notes with pride was the first such religious ceremony in his fam- ily since before the Holocaust. Still, the judge admits he does notbelieve in"apersonal God," adding, "It would be hard for me, after what I've seen." "A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy" by Thomas Buer- genthal (256 pages, Little, Brown and Co., $24.99) Reprinted with permission from j. the Jewish weekly of northern California, www. jweekly.com. Climber scaling Everest to raise money for Ethiopian olirn By Ron Csillag TORONTO (JTA)--Alex Iscoe is taking Jewish fund- raising to new heights.The young Jewish Toronto native hopes to enter the rarefied company of just 230 or so climbers who have scaled the so-called Seven Summits-- the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. He's doing it partly, as the old mountaineering slogan goes, because it's there, but also to raise money for UJA- Federation of Greater Toronto. Iscoe quit his job as a Hong Kong-based leveraged buyout specialist with Gold- man Sachs a year ago, just as financial storm clouds were gathering, and he is financing his own adventure. A single, self2described "28-year-old galavanting male," Iscoe began last July with a tune-up climb up the 14,400 -foot summit of Mount Rainier in Washington state. He followed that by reach- ing the summits of Mount Elbrus in Russia (18,500 feet), Mount Aconcagua in Argentina (22,840 feet) and Mount Vinson Massif in Ant- arctica (16,000 feet), where the temperature dropped to about 40 degrees below 0 without wind chill. Now the world's highest peak is looming before him. "Since I was a teenager, Mount Everest has been a dream," Iscoe told JTA via satellite telephone from base camp at 17,000 feet on the legendary peak that straddles the Nepal-China border. "I found myself in the fortunate position of having built the time and resources over the past year to be doing other training climbs and preparing for this. "It's something I always wanted to do." Iscoe said the weather on Everest has been "fairly good" so far. The bigger problem now is oxygen deprivation. "A low oxygen environment really starts to take its toll on you," he said from inside his tent. Iscoe and his team, six oth- er climbers and two guides, are experiencing headaches. "Sleep becomes very chal- lenging," he said. You're "waking up with what essen- tially amounts to a really bad hangover." To acclimatize to the thin- ner air, the climbers gradually ascend the mountain, then drop backafew thousand feet to abase camp to rest for a week or so. In the next few days, the team will ascend to 23,500 feet. Iscoe expects the final push to the 29,000-foot sum- mit to take place during the third week of May. The higher he goes, the more the lack of oxygen and coldwill become problematic. "They combine to form huge problems. As you get higher and there ig less oxygen," Iscoe said, "the fact that it's colder is multiplied because you're not getting enough oxygen to keep your body warm, plus the fact that it's freezing cold and windy. Right now the issue is acclimatizing, but as we move higher it will most certainly be both." Iscoe said he got involved with UJA about seven years ago when he and a friend set up a memorial fund for a college buddy killed in a car accident. He alsowas involved in a campaign to send kids to camp. "It was a pretty natural fit for me to be working with them again," he said, Funds raised through his climbs will go toward a UJA- funded project in the Israeli town of Bat Yam that helps integrate Ethiopian children into Israeli society. Apart from Everest, still be- fore him are Mount McKinley in Alaska, Mount Kosciuszko in Australia and Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. He hopes to complete the Seven Summits before the end of this year. Iscoe said he's given only "a little bit of thought" to what he will do after the climbs. "To be honest, my entire focus is on" Everest, he said. "When this mountain is over, the entire focus will be on the next mountain."