By Elie Wiesel
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95, 212 pages
As I read Hostage, by Elie Wiesel, I found myself repeatedly checking the book jacket to confirm it was only a novel. Well-known for surviving the Holocaust and years of compassionate service since, Wiesel draws such a vivid portrait of Shaltiel Feigenberg, the victim in the story, that it often reads like non-fiction.
Shaltiel is snatched off his Brooklyn neighborhood street by two “revolutionaries.” Their choice of hostage is a puzzle as Shaltiel is a simple Jewish storyteller, seemingly of no value as leverage for the release of three Palestinian prisoners.
Wiesel cleverly weaves stark details of the Holocaust into the story as Shaltiel drifts in a semi-conscious state while being held in a darkened basement. Shaltiel had lived through the Nazi sweep of Jews to concentration camps at the height of Hitler’s rise. Then, he was saved despite being a Jew, because of his chess prowess.
“Wherever a Jew is threatened or persecuted just because he’s Jewish, we’re responsible for his fate.”
Why would any government negotiate to save an ordinary citizen? Shaltiel worries. Israel’s prime ministers sums it up nicely: “in my mind, wherever a Jew is threatened or persecuted just because he’s Jewish, we’re responsible for his fate.”
Hostage makes us root for a happy ending as we absorb the lessons of history repeating itself.
Reviewed by Kelley Duron