A brutal struggle for survival

2010-09-01 00:00

HAVING been born into a Jewish family­ in Kiev and living as a stateless person in occupied France, there was a strong chance that Irène Némirovsky would die young. So she did — at Auschwitz in August 1942, not yet 40. This book claims she succumbed to typhus­ (flu in camp language), but there are suggestions that, like her husband, she was gassed. Her two daughters survived. She had previously experienced a pogrom and hazardous flight from revolutionary Russia to Finland­.

With a father who loved making money and a mother who loved only herself, Némirovsky’s solitary childhood was saved by writing­. She is most famous for her unfinished, best-selling S uite Française. This is a novel of depth and insight set in France in 1940 and 1941 under German invasion and occupation, which Némirovsky witnessed. It was an extraordinary achievement, written against a background of traumatic events and a sense of impending personal tragedy. In the care of her elder daughter, the manuscript remained unread for 50 years — she imagined it was a diary too painful to open. Over a third of Némirovsky’s work was published posthumously.

Her life was a sequence of escapes, but ultimately she was unable to evade her identity. Recognised as a significant French writer of the inter-war years, and firmly committed to her adopted country, she was denied citizenship even though she had converted to Roman­ Catholicism. Some of her writing displays a negative attitude to Jews and she was published by right-wing, anti-semitic editors­. Critics have described her as a self-hating Jew. She argued that she was simply reflecting a slice of Jewish life; and Philipponnat and Lienhardt agree, describing her writing as non-ideological.

This book can be read as literary biography. But it will appeal to a wider audience — the story of an unsuccessful struggle for survival in the short, brutal European 20th century.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.