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Elie Wiesel wants to sensitise everyone

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, who is always in the middle of writing a novel, is also an avid campaigner for human rights in Darfur.

books Updated: Jun 28, 2007 18:49 IST

At 78 years, Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel says he is always in the middle of a novel.

"Every writer is superstitious. My superstition is that I never give a manuscript to my publisher before I begin another one ... so I'm always in the middle of a novel," he said during a cultural festival.

"I've published almost 50 books and I have the feeling that I haven't even begun."

Wiesel, who won the Nobel peace prize in 1986, was 15 when his family was deported by the Nazis to Auschwitz. He lost his parents and younger sister in the Holocaust.

In Night, which he wrote half a century ago, he gives an account of the concentration camps he survived. He has published avidly as well as campaigned for human rights.

"As a teacher and a writer, my task is to transform knowledge into sensitivity ... I want to sensitise my students. I want them to become more sensitive to each other and then transform sensitivity into commitment," he said.

"We have made such progress in sciences that we should employ our talent and find ways to intervene wherever we are needed."

Last year, together with actor George Clooney, he appealed to the United Nations to act on Sudan's Darfur region, where international experts estimate 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven into camps.

"Progress has been made, not in Darfur but about Darfur. I don't remember a tragedy in my life that has attracted so many people's commitments as Darfur has," Wiesel said.

"When I came out for the first time years ago for Darfur, I said: 'Darfur has become the tragic capital of the world.' And it caught on, you have no idea, in the thousands. Students, wherever I go in America, sign petitions, raise funds, publish ads, so Darfur now is known and therefore people want to help."

The author, who admires anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, says he prefers to stay away from politics.

"The moment I hear that word somehow I become hesitant."