Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Irene Nermirovsky

One of the most important products of the Revolution of 1917 was the Russian Diaspora. Bunin, Nabokov, and Berdyaev are just a few of the jewels in the White Russian crown. But many others, including Henri Troyat, are almost as important, although they learned to see themselves as French as much as they saw themselves as Russian. Irene Nemirovsky probably felt the same. Without knowing anything about her other than what I can glean from Wikipedia, I'm reading her unfinished novel, Fire in the Blood. According to the reviews, I should have started with her masterwork, Suite Francais, two brillaint novellas that emerged out of World War II. Fire in the Blood is a simple, darkly beautiful depiction of life and love in a rural, bourgeois France and shows few self-evidently Russian themes, although the main character shows some traits of the Russian exile. For instance, he's travelled the world, lost his property, and eventually comes to realize that the rootedness of rural life, for all of its pettiness and jealousy, is somehow truer than the sophistication of the globetrotter. Moreover, like most Russian exiles, he's obsessed with the love of his youth, and Les Temps Perdu in general.

Nemirovsky was ethnically Jewish, although she converted to Catholicism, and died in Auschwitz on August 17, 1942. Suite Francais emerged only in the late 1990s since her daughter previously felt that it would be too painful to peruse her mother's papers.

Nuremberg Trial

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