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 2, 2016

The Dogs and the Wolves by Iréne Nemirovsky (1940, translated by Sandra Smith, 2009)

Suite Francaise is the acknowledged master work of Iréne Nemirovsky.  I first read this book during Paris in July in 2015.  I loved that book so much that I added her to my read all I can list.  Since then I have read and posted on eleven of her novels and four short stories.  

Iréne Nemirovsky was born in Kiev, Russia February 11, 1903 into a wealthy Jewish family, her father was a banker for the Czar, and she died in Auschwitz Concentration Camp on August 17, 1942.  She wrote thirteen exquisite novels, her most famous work is Suite Francaise, and published thirty short stories. Her family moved to Paris after the Russian Revolution where her father restored his fortune. I have read eleven of her novels and ten of her short stories.  After  her first novel, David Golder, published in 1926 she wrote almost a novel a year.  With her murder the Nazis, the French were far from blameless concerning the fate of their Jews, deprived the world of upwards of thirty novels.  To me the literary impact of the Holocaust is personified in Iréne Nemirovsky.  

The Dogs and the Wolves is one of her very best works,  the opening segments in which we learn of Jewish society divisions  in the Ukraine are totally brilliant.  I think too many read only Suite Francaise, I do suggest you start Nemirosky there, and fail to see the aspects of her work dealing with her roots in Jewish Russia and the Ukraine.   The open section of The Dogs and The Wolves in which tne different social classes among Jews in a  Ukrainian city are portrayed are simply magnificent.  Her account of a pogram by Cossacks is as powerful as anything by the classic Yiddish writer, Lamed Shapiro.  After the pogram they move to Paris.  In one chilling conversation a rich Jew tells his family they have nothing to worry about.  I don't know if Nemirovsky foresaw what was to happen to the Jews of the Ukraine or not but it seemed prophetic. 

Much of the drama of the story is taken up by two related Jewish families  one poor at the start, and one quite rich, both living in Paris.   Though a happy bit of serendipity brought on when the poor man's children apply for help at the house of their rich relatives, the poor family eventually rises to a comfortable level of affluence.  Romantic drama begins between the children of the two Jewish families plays a big part in the plot. It is very emotional.   There is a lot to be learned about French Jewish life in this novel.  The quality is uneven, sections are just totally wonderful and others are period romance/marriage story norms, though very well executed.

Please share your experience with Iréne Nemirovsky with us.

Mel u

1 comment:

Brona said...

I didnt release so many of her books and stories had been translated into English. I will definitely look into that - thanks.