Elie Wiesel, the concentration-camp survivor and immortal author who passed away this past week at 87 years old, was a writer for many reasons. Firstly, after being liberated from Buchenwald as a teenager and having no family left, Wiesel needed to do something to survive.
In the postwar years, he started working as a journalist when only 19 years old. His searing account of his concentration-camp experiences, Night, was first published in Yiddish in 1955 and later translated into multiple languages. Incredibly, it struggled to find an audience at first in a world that had mostly been unable to deal with the Holocaust in any substantive manner. Eventually the book was seen as a classic and went on to sell over 10 million copies.
Wiesel kept writing, well after he needed it to support himself. He gave a very simple reason for this in his book From the Kingdom of Memory: Reminiscences:
I write to understand as much as to be understood. Will I succeed one day?
As much as any writer could succeed in that massive undertaking, Wiesel did.