Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Our June Author: Irène Némirovsky

Suite Francaise This month we are reading Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky who was living in Nazi-occupied France when she was arrested and sent to Auschwitz where she died. Her last, unfinished novel, Suite Francaise, was discovered and published only recently.

We have a few online resources on our author to supplement discussion of the novel. The Museum of Jewish Heritage offers an online exhibition Woman of Letters: Irene Nemirovsky & Suite Francaise where you can 'open her valise' and examine a few Némirovsky artifacts, review an interactive timeline, and even page through a mock up of the manuscript of the novel.  Here's an introduction to the author produced by the museum:

Irene Nemirovsky from Sarah Josephson on Vimeo.

You can also watch a video introduction to the exhibit and the museum also provides this short video excerpt of a talk by Némirovsky's daughter Denise Epstein with translator Sandra Smith. A longer interview with Epstein and Smith (with better audio quality) is available from WAMU. Another book talk with some good background and insights can be found in this presentation by Sandra Smith and a French lit professor.

Some critics (see here, for example) have raised questions about the lack of Jewish characters in Suite Francaise and the negative depiction of Jewish characters in some of Némirovsky's other writing. The New York Times and The Guardian detail the controversy. Harvard professor Susan Rubin Suleiman takes on the question in a lecture, “Irène Némirovsky and the “Jewish Question” in Interwar France” available from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website (scroll down for the audio player-- the lecture is also available for download via iTunes).
The Life of Irene Nemirovsky: 1903-1942

Many readers of Suite Francaise find Irène Némirovsky's life as interesting as her novel and want to know more. You may want to check out the recent biograpy The Life of Irène Némirovsky: 1903-1942 referenced in the above mentioned NYT article.  There's also a thorough review at Three Percent.

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