- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Knopf (February 17, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307266508
- ISBN-13: 978-0307266507
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,245,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Mad Desire to Dance Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 17, 2009
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Nobel laureate Wiesel (Night) grapples with questions of madness, sadness and memory in this difficult but powerful novel. Doriel Waldman, a Polish Jew born in 1936, survived the occupation in hiding with his father while his mother made a reputation for herself in the Polish resistance. But he did not escape tragedy: his two siblings were murdered and his parents died in an accident shortly after the war. At the novel's opening, he is 60 years old, miserable, alone and on the verge of insanity. Most of the novel unfolds in the office of Doriel's shrink, Dr. Thérèse Goldschmidt, where he reveals himself to be an uncooperative patient, and his aggressive, obsessive rants on the origins of his troubles make for difficult reading. But Wiesel handles the situation expertly, and as Thérèse draws Doriel out, a multilayered narrative emerges: the journey through sadness and toward redemption; a meditation on the hand dealt to Holocaust survivors; and a valuable parable on the wages of human trauma. While the novel is not always easy sledding, there are ample rewards—intellectual and visceral—for the willing reader. (Feb.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine
"Wiesel's is among the truly great lives of the 20th century, his very presence an inspiration to many and a reminder of the enormous power of the word to combat injustice and evil," notes the San Francisco Chronicle. But in the eyes of this critic and others, Wiesel's latest novel doesn't measure up to his stature. About half praised Wiesel's portrayal of Doriel's deep angst and impressive knowledge of philosophy and ethics, Judaism, and politics; others commended the memorable characters and imagery. However, some reviewers thought A Mad Desire a heavy-handed, self-conscious, and somewhat banal look at a tormented soul, leavened only by Dr. Goldschmidt's appeal. But readers with the patience to sift through difficult memories, dreams, and commentary will find A Mad Desire a challenging but ultimately rewarding book.Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC
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Top customer reviews
I would recommend this to someone capable of keeping themself from becoming a part of the storyline.
Most agreed this is a hard read---but some said keep on.. About the 3rd chapter
the reader will find the way. I'm glad I persevered. Doriel is a good character. He thinks
himself mad. He likes the word MAD. He appears to be wealthy and we are not told why or
how until the end. I agree he had a hard life, but on a scale of 1 to 10, I would say his life is about a 6.
He reluctantly tells his life story to 2 therapist. Both eventually dismiss him. I'm not
a pro but I think he was filled with self-pity. He is intelligent, angry and demanding. The reader
won't like him very much. In the end you are left to wonder what part of his life was imaginary and
what part is real. If you have time and interest this is worth a read. Wiesel is a good writer.
Doriel seeks the help of the therapist Dr. Thérèse Goldschmidt, herself a Jew born to Holocaust survivors who vowed never to speak of the horrors of Nazi Germany. During the Second World War, Doriel fled to a Polish town to hide with his father, his sister, and his brother. His mother was an agent for the Resistance movement, having infiltrated the German camp due to her blonde hair and her perfect command of Polish that allow her to pass as an Aryan woman.
At the end of the war, his brother and sister have perished in the hands of the enemy, yet his parents survive. The irony of fate, however, rears its ugly head when his parents are killed en route to Israel in a car accident. Upon their death, Doriel is brought to the United States with his uncle Reb Avrohom, an ascetic Jew who oversees his growth in the Judaistic faith to ensure that his nephew doesn't stray too far from the tree. Doriel explores the pillars of faith and theology and contemplates questions of the eternal, venturing into the holy temples of Israel and houses of holy men, Jewish philosophers and poets in New York. His identity, however, has been shattered by his circumstance, prompting him to embark on a journey to recollect the pieces lost.
Doriel is incredibly intelligent and cultured, yet he also grapples with intense anxiety, sexual frustrations and guilt, tracing his illness to an inner battle with a dybbuk, the inner demons of Eastern European Folklore. Ornery and cynical, he believes that he has descended into madness. "As far as I can read people's gazes, they see me as mad. And I've always felt I was. Mad about my parents first, then about God, study, truth, beauty and impossible love," Doriel tells the Jewish poet Yitzhok Goldfeld. Doriel battles with his fate and his self, wandering into the offices of prestigious psychoanalysts, all of who finally reject him as a hopeless case. Dr. Goldschmidt is his last resort, and as we later find out, an indirect and final solution to his quandaries.
Throughout the novel, Dr. Goldschmidt attempts to analyze him through the lenses of Freudian theory. While Doriel proves to be her most interesting case, he is also the most difficult. Doriel continually makes references to several women in his life, women who have aroused a foreign desire in him. All of them are Jewish. All of them have mesmerizing eyes and smiles so arresting that a man of lesser resolve would have succumbed to their allure, yet he yields little of himself to a life of the unknown. Doriel is intrepid in his approach to explicating the nature of the suffering Jew, yet he recoils in fear and disgust when his family, and in particular, his mother, enters the picture. Goldschmidt continues to build case after case supporting the strength of her theories, yet when she realizes that her efforts to engage in her brand of psychology are in vain, she admits defeat and acknowledges that it is Doriel himself who holds the key to vanquishing his dybbuk; that only he himself holds the answer that will award him a reprieve from a life devoid of love and emptiness.
Readers familiar with Wiesel's work will encounter several themes that resound strongly in the majority of his books. Questions that grapple the nature of good and evil, those that challenge the nature and benevolence of God, and those that assess the foundations of morality, faith, and theology abound to give his writing a richness of the profoundly philosophical and theological sort.
Although the prose is not difficult to read, the thematic tapestry of this novel is quite difficult to digest at the onset. The dialogue can be sometimes perplexing, subject to a sort of literary wordplay and semantic jargon that makes his characters at once interesting and bewildering. Yet, his narrative is sweeping and captivating. Wiesel injects a hodgepodge of Talmudic, Kabbalistic, Zionist and Hasidic elements into his writing, along with a jumble of references to rabbinic and Jewish culture that he has advocated in the bulk of his oeuvre. These only serve to reveal an understanding of a truth that is poignant and at the same time thought provoking in a novel that deconstructs identity through the eyes of a wanderer and reconstructs a variant of it in the end that instills in him a mad desire to dance.