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

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky (first published in French, 2004, translated by Sandra Smith, 2006, written 1941 to 1942 - A Post for Paris in July # 6

I offer my great thanks to Max u for the gift of an Amazon Gift Card that allowed me to read this wonderful book

Paris in July # 6. , hosted by Tamarra of Thyme for Tea, a blog I have followed for years, is one of my favorite book blog events.  It covers much more than literature and there are lots of wonderful participant posts online.

Paris in July # 6. has motivated me to read some very interesting works.

1.  "Baum, Gabriel, 1935" by Mavis Gilbert - A wonderful set in Paris short story

2.  "Two Friends" by Guy de Maupassant- Paris in July # 6. Requires reading de Maupassant!

3.  "Mildred Larson" by George Moore- What Paris Meant to the Irish

4.  "The Parisian Stage" by Henry James - an illuminating essay

5.  "The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls" by Marcel Aymé- a new to me writer I will return to

6.   Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris, 1932 by Francine Prose - interesting 

7.  Shocking Paris Soutine, Chagall and the Outlaw Art of Montaparrne by Stanley Meisler-a 
     Well done account of Yiddish emigre artists in Paris

8.  Short Stories about Cats by Three Classic French authors - 

I am very grateful to Tamara of Thyme for Tea for hosting Paris in July # 6 and providing me with the motivation to read a truly great novel set in France during 1940, Suite Francaise by Iréne Némirovsky.
Némirovsky was born in Kiev in 1903, into an aristocratic Jewish family.  She died in Auschwitz, Poland in a concentration camp on August 17, 1942.  (There is an excellent short article here Jewish Woman's Encyclopedia article on Iréne Némirovsky )

The back story of the publication of Suite Francaise is very interesting.  Her daughters  kept the manuscript secret for 56 years.  It was published for the first time in 2004 and in translation by Sandra Smith in 2006.  The work we have is the first two parts of a planned five part work.  After the death of the author one of her daughters  found the manuscript and thought it would be diary to painful to read.  When she was preparing her mother's papers for donation, 55 years later, she looked at what is now Suite Francaise and submitted it for publication.  

As the novel opens we see Paris in a state of panic brought on by the approaching German army.  The narrative is very intense.   Némirovsky lets us she how a few different households are dealing with the crisis.  Anyone who can plans to flee the city.  The author in just a few paragraphs illuminates decades of family and social history in her portraits of Parisians.  There is just so much to admire in Suite Francaise, so many moments of beauty, truth and brilliance.  

As the novel progresses we are in a small town in the country.  There are hilarious biting scenes of social satire as the local aristocrats desperately want to hold on to their status even though many have Germans billeted in their homes.   The residents of the town reluctantly begin to see humanity in the Germans even though they feel they should hate them.  There are exciting dramatic events and the characters are perfectly drawn.

Suite Francaise is a brilliant panorama of French society in 1940.  It is also a world class literary treasure.  

I have already acquired five other works by Némirovsky, all translated by Sandra Smith, and hope to read them soon.  I have already begun her first published work David Golder.

Mel u


Matthew Selwyn said...

Really interesting - I've seen the book about for years, but never knew the back story! Intriguing stuff.

Tamara said...

Mel, I'm glad Paris in July inspired you to read this. I recall reading it a few years ago and very much enjoying it. It's been in the back of my mind to re-read it some time - maybe you've inspired me....

Monica's Bookish Life said...

This is a book that has been on my shelf for several years. Your post makes me want to make plans to read it soon!

Mel u said...

Mathew Selwyn, Lovers of quality literature must be thankful to her daughter's for bringing the work to light

Tamara. I am Alonso inspired by your event,meads get a fascinating biography on Coco Chanel

Monica. I hope to read your thoughts on this book one day

My great thanks to all commentators