A fascinating look into the life and work of controversial French novelist Irene Nemirovsky
Irene Nemirovsky succeeded in creating a brilliant career as a novelist in the 1930s, only to have her life cut short: a "foreign Jew" in France, she was deported in 1942 and died in Auschwitz. But her two young daughters survived, and as adults they brought their mother back to life. In 2004, Suite francaise, Nemirovsky's posthumous novel, became an international best seller; some critics, however, condemned her as a "self-hating Jew" whose earlier works were rife with anti-Semitic stereotypes. Informed by personal interviews with Nemirovsky's descendants and others, as well as by extensive archival research, this wide-ranging intellectual biography situates Nemirovsky in the literary and political climate of interwar France and recounts, for the first time, the postwar lives of her daughters. Nemirovsky's Jewish works, Suleiman argues, should be read as explorations of the conflicted identities that shaped the lives of secular Jews in twentieth-century Europe and beyond.
Susan Rubin Suleiman is the C. Douglas Dillon Research Professor of the Civilization of France and research professor of comparative literature at Harvard. Her many books include Crises of Memory and the Second World War, Risking Who One Is: Encounters with Contemporary Art and Literature, and the memoir Budapest Diary: In Search of the Motherbook.