Monday, 4 July 2016

RIP Elie Wiesel

- you deserve it. 
I met him once - very briefly. It was long before he won the Nobel Prize, even perhaps before he had achieved any of his wider reputation.
I was introduced to him by one of my lecturers at university - the same man who introduced me to so many other interesting people. This was the lecturer who would often tell people, "This is Cat. She has an idea. I'd like her to tell you about it."
Most people listened. A few were merely polite, others more interested, and some enthusiastic. Elie Wiesel was one of the last.
He was standing there in his shirt sleeves - it was a warm summer evening - and had nothing to write on or with.
I thought he was going to be merely polite but someone else he knew acknowledged me as we stood there in the garden and told him,
"Ask her about her idea for an international year."
He asked. I told him briefly. His expression changed from polite to interested, very interested.
"Paper, pen!" he called to our mutual friend. 
"In my study!"
"Stay still," he told me.
He was back a moment later. He asked some searching questions. He wrote notes and thanked me. That was pretty much the end of the conversation. I heard no more from him.
Many years later though the same lecturer wrote to me and said, "Remember my friend Elie Wiesel? He's been gathering support for your idea too."
Wiesel had been awarded his Nobel Prize by then. He didn't respond to my brief letter of thanks. 
Later I came across a quote from him, 
        "Without memory there is no culture. Without memory there would be no civilisation, no society, no future."
Memory depends on language. We had talked about that.

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