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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Noel" by Irene Nemirovsky (1932, newly translated 2017 by Sandra Smith)

Paris in July - Year Ten -- Hosted by Thyme for Tea

So far as my participation in Paris In July Year Ten I have read

1.  Colette- Two Early Short Stories
2. The Black Notebook by Patrick Modiano
3. "A Duel" by Guy de Maupassant ( A Franco-Prussian War Story)
4. Life, Death, and Betrayal at The Hotel Ritz in Paris by Tilar Mazzeo (non fiction)
5. How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yolem (literary history)
6. "The Lost Child" by Francois Coppée
7. "The Juggler of Norte Dame" by Anatole France- no post
8. A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France
9. "The Illustrious Gaudissart" by Honore de Balzac
10. After the Circus by Patrick Modiano
11. "Gaudissart Ii" by Honore de Balzac
12. 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Phillipe Blondel
13. "Noel" by Irene Nemirovsky

Irene Nemirovsky was born in the Ukraine in 1903, with her family, after a stop,in Finland, she immigrated to France to avoid anti-Semitic pograms.  On July 26, 1942 she was deported to Auschwitz where she died August 17, 1942.  She was a fast writer, producing about a novel a year so as I see it the Germans deprived the world of maybe 30 masterworks. It is very hard for me to read her work without a feeling of sadness, even bitterness.  As I saw the recent boorish behavior of trump

in Paris I wished for world leaders who can appreciate the work of the great writers of Paris.

I first encountered Irene Nemirovsky during Paris in July in 2015 when I read her acknowledged by all master work, Suite Francais.

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.

After reading Suite Francais I went on to read all of her novels available as in digital format, a few of her short stories, three books about her and numerous webpage posting.

I was really happy to see a never before published in English short story by Nemirovsky in A Very French Christmas- A Collection of the Greatest Holiday Stories of France recently published by New Vessel Press.  The translation is by the Award Winning Sandra Smith.

As "Noel" opens it is a snowy Christmas season day on the affluent streets of Paris, two young girls are being taken for a stroll by their nanny.  We over hear the conversations of passerbys, we look in the lovely shop windows.  When we arrive at the girls home their two older sisters, 20 and 22, are preparing for a ball.  Their father is a successful businessman.  Both he and his wife, mother of the girls, have lovers.  We sit in on the preparations for the party.  Ramon, a wealth young man from Argentina spending the season in Paris will be there.  The older girl is in love with him.

The party is just brilliantly depicted.  The couples are all dancing close together in a Tango, all the rage, until a parent comes in the room and then it is all innocence.

I really don't want to spoil the exciting developments in the story as it would not be fair to other first time readers.  "Noel" is very much classic Nemirovsky, down to the unpleasant mother!  It is a great work of art.

I am very grateful to New Vessal Press for including this wonderful story in their collection of French holiday stories.  New Vessel Press is an independent publisher focusing on literature in translation and quality narrative non-fiction.  (  Their website is very well done and the books are very interesting and fairly priced.

Mel u
The Reading Life


Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I have this book! I am a huge fan of Suite Francaisse and now I want to go read this little story. Thank you!

Jeanie said...

First, before I forget, thanks for visiting me at Marmelade Gypsy. I am so far behind in Paris In July and catching up!

I, too, discovered Nemirovsky during Paris in July with Suite Francaise and loved that book and her writing style. I know what you mean about reading with a twinge of sadness. Thanks for an excellent book review -- I'll look forward to finding this one!