THE WORLD'S FOREMOST Holocaust survivor, a man famed for having lifted his voice for the millions who were silenced, cannot talk with his own sisters about the Holocaust.
"I . . . dream about my mother and my little sister," Elie Wiesel writes near the end of And the Sea is Never Full, his new book of memoirs. "I try to learn about their last moments. Hilda walked with them a few steps more than I did. I want to question her about it. I don't dare. We speak every week but only about her health, her son, Sidney, her grandchildren. Yet I would like to know more about her experiences in the camp. . . . I curse the reticence that renders me mute. Neither with Bea nor with Hilda have I spoken of our parents or our home. Am I afraid of bursting into tears?"
Wiesel lived through the Final Solution and he lives with it still; its shadows fall across nearly everything he has done for the past half-century; to remember, to bear witness, has been the constant theme of his life's work. Yet it is the subject he dreads above all others. "I have written books," he says, "but with a few exceptions, they deal with other things . . . . I have written on diverse subjects mostly in order not to evoke the one that, for me, has the greatest meaning."
He has not come close to answering the questions he began asking as a teen-ager. How could it happen? Why was the world indifferent? And God — where was He? Even now he doesn't know what to call the Nazis' genocidal war against the Jews. Sometimes he calls it the Holocaust, sometimes "the Tragedy," "the abyss," "the Events," "the Kingdom of Night." Sometimes, simply — "over there."
"In truth," he writes, "there is no word for the ineffable."
Wiesel is one of the great men of the 20th century; the completion of his memoirs is therefore news. . . .