Notes from the Other Side of Night
Notes from the Other Side of Night is a diary-memoir written upon Juliana Geran Pilon’s return to her native Romania in 1975, which she had left along with her family when she was just fourteen. Poetically weaving together modern insight and realities with childhood perceptions, Pilon tells the haunting stories of her parents, grandparents, neighbors, and friends.
Although the scenery of her native home had remained essentially unchanged since her childhood, Pilon recalls streets that are no more, homes and churches that have been demolished. Yet, the hills and forests, the flowers and mountains, the heat of old Bucharest, remained the same. The scenes and characters described in this book are simply unforgettable.
Despite the many tragedies it describes—anti-semitism, political imprisonment, and judicial execution were ruthless realities under communism—Notes from the Other Side of Night is not a depressing book. Pilon writes with a detached melancholy about events and characters that illustrate Hannah Arendt’s terrifying "banality of evil." But she remembers, as well, those few who managed to remain human beings until the end. Ultimately, hope triumphs in this memoir. This edition includes a new foreword, which discusses the initial writing and publication of this and previous editions.
“Pilon, whose family emigrated from communist Rumania when she was a child, recounts the story of her return to her native land in 1975. Her observations form a grim indictment of this communist state, the drab, fear-ridden existence of its inhabitatnts, the poverty and repression that are endemic to the system. Yet despite all this, she shows, the embers of hope, compassion, and religious faith somehow survive beneath the suffocating mantle of totalitarianism. Almost as important as what she has to tell us is the phenomenon of Mrs. Pilon herself, who alternately displays the gifts of poet, philosopher, and experienced political observer. Among its other revelations, Notes from the Other Side of Night marks the unveiling of an impressive writing talent.”
—M. Stanton Evans, National Review
“There are scenes in this book that the reader will never forget - such as the celebration of the Passover, performed in the greatest secrecy. And there are fascinating, exceptional characters, admirably portrayed. . . . Like Nadejda Mandelstam in her Hope Against Hope, Juliana writes with a detached, if sometimes melancholy, sobriety, free from melodrama, about events and characters that illustrate Hannah Arendt’s terrifying ‘banality of evil.’ But Juliana remembers as well those few who managed to remain genuine human beings till the end, defying all danger. And she puts it so well, yet so simply: ‘there is nothing banal about the good. . . . ’ In essence, what she tells of the survivors, the representatives of a humanity that seemed so natural before the war, is not only deeply moving but heartening and invigorating as well. Rereading the story, one begins, once more, to believe in man.”
—Mircea Eliade, University of Chicago
“Notes from the Other Side of Nightis a moving, if ever so melancholy, set of reminiscences. That Juliana writes with both grace and sense of austere reserve about matters of gravity is a personal tribute. Her sense of the admixture of the social and religious permeates the text as a whole. It deserved to be written and moreover to be read.”
—Irving Louis Horowitz, Rutgers University
“Juliana Geran Pilon’s riveting narrative takes us through two tragic chapters of recent Romanian history: the Holocaust and the communist dictatorship. A powerful story of a Jewish family discriminated against by two totalitarian regimes told with great talent.”
—Radu Ioanid, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies