Elie Wiesel, known for his books rooted in the Holocaust, has produced a story probing the post-war generations’ ties to this dark period. Enter Yedidyah Wasserman, a child of survivors, who grows up to be a theatre critic for a New York City newspaper with a worldview inspired by his father and grandfather’s philosophical bent. Yedidyah becomes preoccupied early in his career with the trial of a young German student accused of killing his uncle. It resonates with the “ill-defined despondency close to melancholy” he has carried within since early childhood and drives him to uncover his real family legacy.
The German defendant, who pleads “guilty and not guilty,” seeks out Yedidyah years later to tell him the truth behind the death, a shockingly different and more poignant outcome than Yedidyah had imagined.
The ambiguous courtroom plea is the foundation of Wiesel’s thesis — that the generations born after the war are deeply ambivalent about the crimes of their ancestors and the fates of their families.
Yedidyah, the constantly ruminating protagonist, asks many questions but comes up short on answers. This novel, which toggles between first and third person perspectives, the past and the present, is written sparsely but seems scattered at times.