Discussion Questions

Day Book Cover 
Please join us for the scheduled talk on Elie Wiesel's Day (The Accident) to be held Wednesday, May 12, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the small meeting room on the 2nd floor. The talk is fifth in the series on the theme of life and strife in literature and is sponsored by the West End Library Friends. The presenter is Ori Z. Soltes, resident scholar in theology and fine arts at Georgetown University. Discussion questions are:

1. How does the author engage the issue of fate and predestination on the one hand and human choice and free will on the other in the first chapter of the book? How does that engagement relate to the main character’s prior life experience?

2. Given that experience—the Holocaust—how does the author relate the matter of depersonalized fate to a personified, interested, involved God?

3. Why can’t the main character love Kathleen? Who and what stand in the way?

4. What are the devices used by the author to address the issue of memory as a human instrument?

5. How does the author play on the theme of love and death—broadly and in more nuanced ways? How does that theme intersect the theme of love and strife?

6. How does the author specifically play on specific, unsavory characters and themes that were part of the Holocaust’s horror, such as Josef Mengele and other Nazi physicians?

7. Why does the main character weep at the end of the novel—why does he get so upset when Giula burns his portrait?

8. Who is the main character? When if at all do we come to know his name?

9. Bonus question: How does this work draw the line between memoir and novel (or novella) when we place it in the context of Night and Dawn? (Is this intended to be the third part of the “triptych” that is has become? Which is the better title for the work?)

10. Bonus Question #2: How does this novel bear out the assertion made (25 years later) by Primo Levi, in his last book, The Drowned and the Saved, that the word “survivor” applied to victims of traumas like the Holocaust is a misnomer—that you don’t really survive?