Sunday, June 3, 2012


Irene Nemirovskiy wrote novels in France before WW2. She died in Auschwitz in 1944 aged 42.An English friend alerted me to 'Suite Francaise' her final, uncompleted novel about the German invasion and occupation of France, published by Vintage Books and so skilfully translated by Sandra Smith that it has lost none of its French flavour. Her characters are the bourgoidee. the French middle class, the shopkeepers. the notaries, the petty nobility and the rich farmers.

Nemirovsky planned a series of four novels, the first, Storm in June tells of Parisiens fleeing Paris, their cars loaded with possessions, the chaos along the roads; the fifteen year old who runs away to join the fighting, his brother a priest who is murdered by the children he is escorting because he will not let them plunder an abandonned chateau.

 'Dolce' is set in a small village in occupied France. The occupation force is not a bunch of fanatical Nazis. They are young men who have had to leave wives. families and occupations. The officers are billeted in the chateaus, the soldiers make friends with the village children. Every character is meticulously and mercilessly drawn, from the Vicomtesse, who runs a sxhool for orphanned girls, parrotting the sayings of Marechal Petain, the Angellier household where the mother in law forbids her daughter in law to play the piano while her husband is a prisoner of war. The same huband had married his wife for her money and kept a mistresas in Dijon. When the Germans first occupy the village all doors are shut, as they were against fleeing Parieians weeks before.But when shopkeepers see the invaders have money they open their shops , with a hefty raise in prices of course.

Suite Francaise is what I call a dense rtead. The narrative is woven into a broad tapestry describing the French countryside, the lives of people living there, the structure of their society. and even reading in tranlation I found it fasscination and beautiful. 'Suite Francaise' is the French 'War and Peace' but never finished because its author was snuffed out by the insane philosophies of the time.

War and Peace for WW2n


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