Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel has published over 50 books. His latest is a slim volume, but within its pages he raises multiple philosophical and ethical questions. Is it one to recommend to the many teens who have read Night?
WIESEL, Elie. The Sonderberg Case: A Novel. tr. from French by Catherine Temerson. 192p. Knopf. 2010. Tr $25. ISBN 978-0-307-27220-1. LC 2009038525.
Adult/High School–Despite its title, Wiesel’s latest work is concerned not with the trial of accused murderer Werner Sonderberg, but with Yedidyah Wasserman, the theater reporter assigned to cover the case. Alternating between first- and third-person narration that may or may not also be written by Wasserman, Wiesel presents the life of an American Jew whose life is intrinsically bound up with his Holocaust-survivor grandparents and their views of life. The eponymous trial, with its abrupt and decidedly unthrilling conclusion, is, in narrative terms, simply a MacGuffin: its narrative role is to act as a dramatic event around which to center the story of Wasserman, and its true thematic relevance is not fully revealed until the novel’s final pages. Even Wasserman’s life is a series of philosophical snapshots. What then is The Sonderberg Case about? As always, Wiesel is interested not in mundane topics such as legal guilt or innocence, but in larger questions: moral culpability, the importance of bloodline to identity, the essentially theatrical nature of life. For readers willing to have their expectations delayed and frustrated, the final moments of the novel are greatly rewarding, as they bring the novel’s essential themes into clear relief. It’s a weighty novel, but for the many teenagers who have been entranced by Wiesel’s powerful voice in the perennial classroom assignment Night, it’s an excellent choice for further reading.– Mark Flowers, John Kennedy Library, Solano County, CA