Mortality Quotes Page 6
How we cite our quotes:
"Don’t worry, son. Go to sleep. I’ll watch over you."
"You first, Father. Sleep."
He refused. I stretched out and tried to sleep, to doze a little, but in vain. God knows what I would have given to be able to sleep a few moments. Bet deep inside, I knew that to sleep meant to die. And something in me rebelled against that death. Death, which was settling in all around me, silently, gently. It would seize upon a sleeping person, steal into him and devour him bit by bit. Next to me, someone was trying to awaken his neighbor, his brother, perhaps, or his comrade. In vain. Defeated, he lay down too, next to the corpse, and also fell asleep. Who would wake him up? Reaching out with my arm, I touched him:
"Wake up. One mustn’t fall asleep here …"
He half opened his eyes.
"No advice," he said, his voice a whisper. "I’m exhausted. Mind your business, leave me alone."
My father too was gently dozing. I couldn’t see his eyes. His cap was covering his face.
"Wake up," I whispered in his ear.
He awoke with a start. He sat up, bewildered, stunned, like an orphan. He looked al around him, talking it all in as if he had suddenly decided to make an inventory of his universe, to determine where he was and how and why he was there. Then he smiled.
I shall always remember that smile. What world did it come from?
Heavy snow continued to fall over the corpses. (6.43-53)
In the concentration camp, there is more than one kind of death: there are the violent deaths in the flames of the crematorium, but also the silent deaths, giving in to cold, bodily weakness, and sleep. Eliezer and his father, like his neighbors, are in serious danger of giving in to peaceful sleep and never waking up.
Pressed tightly against one another, in an effort to resist the cold, our heads empty and heavy, our brains a whirlwind of decaying memories. Our minds numb with indifference. Here or elsewhere, what did it matter? Die today or tomorrow, or later? The night was growing longer, never-ending.
When at last a grayish light appeared on the horizon, it revealed a tangle of human shapes, heads sunk deeply between the shoulders, crouching, piled one on top of the other, like a cemetery covered with snow. In the early dawn light, I tried to distinguish between the living and those who were no more. But there was barely a difference. My gaze remained fixed on someone who, eyes wide open, stared into space. His colorless face was covered with a layer of frost and snow. (98)
Eliezer finds that among his fellow prisoners, there is very little difference between the living and the dead; the dead are dead and the living are but living dead, without hope.
One day when I was able to get up, I decided to look at myself in the mirror on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto.
From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me.
The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me. (9.25-27)
Though liberated physically, the presence of death has never left Eliezer throughout his life.