Understanding Irène Némirovsky
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128 pages

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A sympathetic, nuanced exploration of the fiction and turbulent life of this best-selling author

A best-selling novelist in the 1930s, Irène Némirovsky (1903-1942) was rediscovered in 2004, when her Suite Française, set during the fall of France and the first year of German occupation, became a popular and critical success both in France and in the United States. Surviving in manuscript for sixty years after the author's deportation to Auschwitz, the work drew respectful attention as the voice of an early Holocaust victim. However, as remaining portions of Némirovsky's oeuvre returned to print, many twenty-first-century readers were appalled. Works such as David Golder and The Ball were condemned as crudely anti-Semitic, and when biographical details such as her 1938 conversion to Catholicism became known, hostility toward this "self-hating" Jew deepened.

Countering such criticisms, Understanding Irène Némirovsky offers a sympathetic, nuanced reading of Némirovsky's fiction. Margaret Scanlan begins with an overview of the writer's life—her upper-class Russian childhood, her family's immigration to France, her troubled relationship with her neglectful mother—and then traces how such experiences informed her novels and stories, including works set in revolutionary Russia, among the nouveau riche on the Riviera, and in struggling French families and failing businesses during the Depression. Scanlan examines the Suite Française and other works that address the rise of fascism and anti-Semitism. Viewing Némirovsky as a major talent with a distinctive style and voice, Scanlan argues for Némirovsky's keen awareness of the unsettled times in which she lived and examines the ways in which even her novels of manners analyze larger social issues.

Scanlan shows how Némirovsky identified with France as the center of culture and Enlightenment values, a nation where a thoughtful artist could choose her own identity. The Russian Revolution had convinced Némirovsky that violent liberations led to further violence and repression, that interior freedom required political stability. In 1940, when French democracy had collapsed and many seemed reconciled to the Vichy state, Némirovsky's idea of private freedom faltered—a recognition that her last work, Suite Française, for all its seeming reticence, makes poignantly clear.



Publié par
Date de parution 30 juin 2018
Nombre de lectures 4
EAN13 9781611178692
Langue English

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Understanding Ir ne N mirovsky
Understanding Modern European and Latin American Literature
James Hardin, Series Editor
Ir ne N mirovsky
Margaret Scanlan

The University of South Carolina Press
2018 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/ .
ISBN 978-1-61117-868-5 (cloth)
ISBN 978-1-61117-869-2 (ebook)
Front cover photograph: Ir ne N mirovsky, 1938.
Albert Harlingue / Roger Viollet / The Image Works
To the new members of our family:
Tracy, Shaun, and Caitlin and to the newest, Theodore Liam and Benjamin Ian
Series Editor s Preface
A Note on Texts
1. Monstrous Mothers
2. The Russian Fiction
3. David Golder , the Controversy, and One Revision
4. France and the Jews in the 1930s
5. The Bond of Tears and Jewishness in the Late Fiction
6. The Vichy Novels
7. The Catholic N mirovsky
8. Dolce and the Unfinished Suite Fran aise
Series Editor s Preface
Understanding Modern European and Latin American Literature has been planned as a series of guides for undergraduate and graduate students and nonacademic readers. Like the volumes in its companion series Understanding Contemporary American Literature, these books provide introductions to the lives and writings of prominent modern authors and explicate their most important works.
Modern literature makes special demands, and this is particularly true of foreign literature, in which the reader must contend not only with unfamiliar, often arcane artistic conventions and philosophical concepts, but also with the handicap of reading the literature in translation. It is a truism that the nuances of one language can be rendered in another only imperfectly (and this problem is especially acute in fiction), but the fact that the works of European and Latin American writers are situated in a historical and cultural setting quite different from our own can be as great a hindrance to the understanding of these works as the linguistic barrier. For this reason the UMELL series emphasizes the sociological and historical background of the writers treated. The philosophical and cultural traditions peculiar to a given culture may be particularly important for an understanding of certain authors, and these are taken up in the introductory chapter and also in the discussion of those works to which this information is relevant. Beyond this, the books treat the specifically literary aspects of the author under discussion and attempt to explain the complexities of contemporary literature lucidly. The books are conceived as introductions to the authors covered, not as comprehensive analyses. They do not provide detailed summaries of plot because they are meant to be used in conjunction with the books they treat, not as a substitute for study of the original works. The purpose of the books is to provide information and judicious literary assessment of the major works in the most compact, readable form. It is our hope that the UMELL series will help increase knowledge and understanding of European and Latin American cultures and will serve to make the literature of those cultures more accessible.
I owe a debt to the libraries and institutions where this book was researched and edited: most notably, L Institut m moires de l dition contemporaine, IMEC, whose excellent archives are located at l abbeye d Ardenne on the outskirts of Caen in Basse-Normande, France. I also appreciate the hospitality of the University of Notre Dame s Hesburgh Libraries and of my home institution, Indiana University South Bend. Maureen Kennedy directs the interlibrary loan office there with enviable dispatch and enthusiasm. A writer searching for a long-out-of-print pamphlet of Vichy propaganda could have no better champion.
As always, I am grateful to supportive colleagues and family for their good sense, encouragement, and cheer. I would particularly like to thank my two favorite historians, Roy Schreiber and Micheline Nilsen, for their many lively discussions of topics such as French anti-Semitism and collaboration. My husband, John, has read every draft of every chapter and made incisive comments on them all. A husband who asks questions over breakfast such as So what really was a Vichy novel? cannot always be assured of a warm reception, as John knows to his sorrow. But in the end he almost always turns out to have been right, as he also knows. He is so much a part of my writing process that I sometimes take him for granted, and I am grateful to him for this and so much more.
A Note on Texts
Anyone who studies Ir ne N mirovsky is indebted to Olivier Philipponnat. He is coauthor with Patrick Lienhardt of The Life of Ir ne N mirovsky (Knopf, 2010) as well as editor of the two-volume edition of N mirovsky s complete works, published by Livre de poche in 2011. In addition to the annotated French texts of N mirovsky s fiction, the Oeuvres compl tes is accompanied by a scholarly introduction, a fifty-five-page chronology that includes a literary history and genealogy dating from 1847 to 2010, and a series of notices that provide valuable historical context and citations from reviews published in N mirovsky s lifetime, as well as interpretative insights.
Throughout this book, The Life of Ir ne N mirovsky is cited as PL. The complete works are cited as OC 1 and OC 2. Because this series is intended for the general reader, I have used the recent English translations published by Vintage International, all but one the work of Sandra Smith. Where a published translation is not available, I have used the Oeuvres compl tes and provided my own. In a very few places, I have identified an alternative to the published translation to support a critical argument. English titles for N mirovsky s novels are used whenever a translation is available; otherwise titles are provided in French.
Birth of Ir ne N mirovsky in Kiev, Ukraine, on FEBRUARY 11. Only child of Leonid N mirovsky and Anna Margoulis. Father is a banker and financier.
OCTOBER 18: Pogroms against Jews in Kiev and Odessa. Ir ne is hidden behind a bed by the cook, Maria, an Orthodox cross around her neck.
FEBRUARY : Attends carnival in Nice, France. Her oldest memory.
Family lives in prestigious neighborhood in Kiev, with numerous trips to France. Stays in Paris, C te d Azur, C te Basque, and spa towns, including Vichy.
N mirovsky family moves to St. Petersburg. AUGUST 1: Germany declares war on Russia. AUGUST 18: St. Petersburg renamed Petrograd.
FEBRUARY : Uprisings in Petrograd. Czar Nicholas abdicates. N mirovskys move to Moscow. OCTOBER 25: Russian Revolution. Bolsheviks take over government. DECEMBER : Russian banking system nationalized. DECEMBER 15: Russia signs armistice with Central Powers.
JANUARY : N mirovskys flee to Finnish border town, Mustam ki, and move into a boarding house with other refugees from Russia. APRIL : Fleeing Finnish civil war, N mirovskys move to Helsinki. NOVEMBER 11: Armistice between France and Germany.
MARCH : Family moves to Stockholm. JULY : N mirovskys take a furnished apartment in Paris. Ir ne enrolls at the Sorbonne.
Ir ne receives undergraduate degree in Russian letters from the Sorbonne.
Maternal grandparents arrive in France. JULY : Ir ne receives a certificate in Russian language and literature from the Sorbonne. OCTOBER : She enrolls in the new comparative literature program.
Ir ne receives a certificate of advanced studies in comparative literature from the Sorbonne. DECEMBER 31: She meets Michel Epstein, son of an exiled Russian banker.
FEBRUARY : The Misunderstanding published by Fayard. JULY 31: Marriage to Michel Epstein in a Jewish religious ceremony followed by a civil ceremony. Begins first draft of David Golder .
Fayard publishes L Enfant g nial (no English translation, The Child Prodigy ).
Fayard publishes L Ennemie (no English translation, The Enemy ).
FEBRUARY : Fayard publishes The Ball . NOVEMBER 9: Daughter, Denise France Catherine Epstein born. Nurse C cile Mitaine, native of Issy-l v que, engaged. DECEMBER 7: Bernard Grasset, publisher, accepts David Golder .
JANUARY : David Golder published to high critical acclaim: Andr Maurois compares the author to Proust. MAY : Julien Duvivier adapts David Golder for film, his first with a soundtrack. SEPTEMBER : Grasset republishes The Ball . DECEMBER 26: Premier of dramatic version of David Golder in Paris. The play has a short run.
JANUARY 14: Death of Iona Margoulis, maternal grandmother. MARCH 6: Film premier of David Golder attended by well-known writers Paul Morand and Colette. Film receives positive reviews. JUNE : Musical version of The Ball filmed. L on N mirovsky suffers massive losses when Swedish magnate Ivar Kreuger refuses to come to his aid. DECEMBER : Grasset publishes Snow in Autumn .
MARCH 12: Ivar Kreuger found dead in Paris, an apparent suicide. SEPTEMBER 16: Death of L on N mirovsky.
Hitler comes to power in Germany. Grasset publishes The Courilof Affair to discouraging reviews. OCTOBER : Signs a twenty-year contract with Albin Michel.
Le Pion sur l chiquier (no E

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