Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Irène Némirovsky - Two Short Stories Set in Pre-WWII Paris by the author of Suite Francaise

Irène Némirovsky (born 1903, Kiev, Ukraine, died 1942 in Nazi concentration camp) is a tragic figure.
Born to Jewish parents in the Ukraine, then part of the Russian empire, her family fled in 1917 at the time of the Russian Revolution.   They spent a year in Finland then settled permanently in Paris.   Nemirovsky attended the Sorbonne, converted to Catholicism, and at eighteen published her first short  story, set in Paris and written in French.   She soon became a highly regarded writer and a very successful movie was made from her novel David Golder.   Upon the invasion of Paris by the Germans she was sent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland to die in the gas chambers there.  

I am very glad I have at last read some of her work, two set in Paris circa 1939 stories, both centering on affluent Parisian women.  Both focus on the relationship of a woman in her mid forties and her early 20s daughter.  Parents in these circumstances will see the reality behind these stories. 

"Dimanche"  ("Sunday") is a fascinating multilayered story centering on the relationship of a 45 year old woman to her 20 year old daughter.  I was brought to mind the works of Colette as I read this for its very perceptive view of the mirrors in which we see each other.  The daughter is having an affair with an older obviously married man and her mother sees heartbreak coming and her own past in the emotions of her daughter.  The off stage father has been having casual affairs for years.   The daughter sees her mother as beyond romantic feelings due to her age and jealous of her youth while the mother secretly yearns for passion and knows her daughter is being used and treated as a fool by her lover.  

"Those Happy Shores" also centers on the dynamics of a mother - daughter relationship.   The daughter is around 20, the mother in her mid-forties.  It is much like "Dimanche" in that it centers on the pairs perceptions of each other.   The daughter is preparing to go out for an evening with her friends and the mother is put off by their tawdry appearance and mode of attire while the daughter tells her she will be out late and not to worry.   

If you want to read these stories, download a sample of Dimanche and Other Stories by Irene Nemirovsky from Amazon.   

I really hope to read at least Suite Francaise one day.   

This is my third year as a participant in the Paris in July Reading Event hosted by Book Bath and Thyme for Tea.   I find this a very interesting and creative event of the sort that helps build the book blog community.  You will fund lots of reading ideas on the host blogs.


Anonymous said...

Thank-you for introducing me to this author.

Very interesting.

Kathleen Jones said...

The mother and daughter relationship is apparently based on Irene's own relationship with her parents. I've just read a very bad biography (bad in the sense that it was very difficult to read) which gave me considerable insight into her writing. Her novel David Golder is apparently a portrait of her parents and her own younger self. I love her work. Such a tragic story.

Mel u said...

Kathleen. Thanks for your comment. It takes great skill, empathy, and cultural depth to write the great literary biographies you have done.

Vagabonde said...

I read Suite Française in French when it came out. I had read on a French newspaper about Irène’s daughter carrying the little black book with her for years and never reading it, then finally reading it some years ago and showing it to a friend who insisted that it be published. I have read several of Irène’s books and also the books of memories by her daughter Elizabeth Gille, in French “Le Mirador.” I am not sure if it has been translated.
Another French book I enjoyed – I bought it at an Atlanta flea market for $1 – was Souvenirs d’un temps disparu by Marie Scheikevitch – a Russian émigré who befriended Proust and other well known Parisians. I just looked on Amazon, it is called Time Past Memories of Proust and Others and my book in French can be bought for $49.50! I should sell it!