A Mad Desire to Dance

Written by Elie Wiesel
Review by Rebecca Cantrell

This elegiac novel follows Doriel, a man who fears he is either mad or possessed by a dybukk, and Dr. Therese Goldschmidt, the wealthy and remote psychoanalyst trying to heal him. Doriel searches for a redemptive love with the “smile of a frightened child” through the labyrinth of his madness while the doctor struggles to weave together a past from the disparate stories he tells, but she is unsure of the truth of his stories or of his dybukk. Slowly he reveals events that shake the doctor from her professional detachment. He recounts a childhood spent in hiding during the war with his father and younger brother. His mother and sister were in the Polish resistance, so he rarely saw them. But when the family members who survive the war die in a simple accident, Doriel is left alone. He searches for meaning in his past in his initially deep Jewish faith, but when another dies in his place, his guilt and his dybukk consume him. Doriel’s demons invade even the doctor’s carefully ordered and remote life. The two work to save themselves and to bring Doriel to a hopeful denouement and a chance to liberate himself from the burden of his past. A haunting and redemptive novel that shines light into the darkness of one man’s tortured and lonely soul.