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, October 20, 2015

"Brotherhood" -"Fraterité" a short story by Iréne Nemirovsky (1938)

"Fraterité", "Brotherhood", deals directly with the soon to be deadly serious issue of Jewish cultural identity in France.  Historically most French Jews have Eastern European or Russian roots.  News whose ancestors moved several generations ago, who spoke impeccable French and often little or no Yiddish thought of themselves as French citizens who happened too be Jewish.  There was a kind of distance al out fear of the so called Yiddish Jew in the minds of what were called then "European Jews".   They did not want to be seen by the broader public in a deeply anti- Semetic country as being related to Jews speaking a strange language, dressing differently, etc.  

Our central character is a very affluent Jewish business person, married with two grown daughters.
He is  in the first class waiting room of a train station.  It will be ninety minutes until the Paris train arrives.  An obviously poor Yiddish Jew has entered the lounge area, along with his grandson.  He besieges the man to let him and his grandson sit with them so they won't be put out of the lounge.  There is no heat in the third class lounge and his grandson is not strong.  The recognize each other as being Jewish.  To his great shock he discovers they have the same obviously Jewish family name.

He tries to tell himself they cannot possibly be related. He wants so much to see himself as a cultured French gentleman.  He fears others will see him as more like a Yiddish Jew than a "real French citizen

When this story was written anti-Semetic laws were just going into place in France.  Nemirovsky was on tne first train of Jews sent to Auschwitz where she and later her husband died.  

Mel u

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