Remembering Elie Wiesel 1928-2016
My graduate work at Boston University focused on literature and religion. Literary critic Christopher Ricks, Novelist Saul Bellow, Poet Geoffrey Hill and others were at BU then. All were University Professors, stars in fields of literature brought in by President Silber. I recall a seminar on Judaism with Elie Wiesel, perhaps the greatest of these in the world’s eyes. When I enrolled I thought the class was for graduate students. It turned out to have been over-enrolled with students from all across the university. Undergraduates and graduate students hung on every word Wiesel said. He spoke softly and listened carefully to unremarkable comments of students two-and-three-deep around the seminar room. He was tanned and troubled by his thinning hair. He kept whipping his hair up and over. He told us about phone calls with Presidents and heads-of-state as we talked about Hasidic wisdom literature. He talked for some time about his Noble Prize for Peace in an accent I found easy to listen to but hard to place. He was a celebrity author and the conscience of the powerful.