The Plaint | 1(A)







If the question of form or even of format were defined with a sufficiently wide conceptual berth, our entire question of how singing follows upon Auschwitz as a necessity could be moored to it. We might even say that the entire question is defined in terms of the forms of sound. More narrowly, though, the question concerns the difference in format between plaint and deposition, where, very basically, by plaint we understand something that does not yet or necessarily have a litigational form. A plaint is basically a lament. Its sound is that of crying. But as the ‘noise’ of a plaint is carefully reworked and reformated until its sound is finally admissible in a courtroom in the form of a proper affidavit, the greatest risk to the strength of the case’s argument that arises in this reformative process would lie in overdoing the legal eloquence to the point that it begins to muffle the essential ‘tonality’ of the pain which is the anchor of the very rightness of the case and of its argument.

Thus the first part of our dossier contains a presentation of Wiesel’s plaint in its basic raw forms. It is only when the cacophonous inelegance of his crude plaint is identified and the work of reformating is laid out that the essence of the plaint itself emerges from its accidental caterwauling. In ‘Winter,’ the plaint is introduced as follows.

During his meeting with the Rebbe, Gregor had asked him,

‘So noth­ing has changed?’

‘Nothing.’ ‘Me too?’

‘You too. You haven’t changed.’

‘And Auschwitz? What do you make of Auschwitz?’

‘Auschwitz proves that nothing has changed, that the first war persists. That man is capable of love and of hate, of mur­der and of sacrifice. That he is both Abraham and Isaac. God—He has not changed.’

Gregor became angry. ‘After what has happened to us, how can you still believe in God?’

The Rebbe, an understanding smile on his lips, an­swered, ‘After what has happened to us, how can you not believe in God?’

The two of them had an impassioned discussion. Gregor was victorious, or at least he thought he was. But now he became ashamed, as if over an insult he had landed, not so much at the Rebbe himself as at this assembly for whom he was every­thing. […]

The conversation between Gregor and the Rebbe opened in hostility. Gregor saw in his interlocutor a fortress inviting comfort and repose, while the Rebbe took his vistor for a deserter. One preached gratitude, the other anger.

Gregor: ‘The degeneration of the human being constitutes an accusation against his Creator, who bears His share of responsibility for the treason.’

The Rebbe: ‘All the more reason to choose faith [la foi], devotion; be pure, and God will be purified in you.’

Gregor: ‘Why should I do that? I owe Him nothing. On the contrary.’

The Rebbe: ‘That is not the question. He owes you nothing either. You don’t live His life and He doesn’t live yours. You owe yourself something; what exactly?—that’s the question.’1

We now brusquely pass over this introductory part of the section from ‘Winter’ without comment. First, we need to take up the document that contains the key deposition in the case of Eliezer Wiesel, that is to say, the key section of the text that he himself considers to be his official written deposition, even under the eventual French title La nuit.2