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To the Far End with a Hardened Heart

  • Date Submitted: 08/17/2011 10:33 AM
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Suite Francaise

By Irene Nemirovsky

Translated by Sandra Smith

Vintage, 2007,pp.515.

                                          To the far end with a hardened heart

            Suite Francaise comprises the first two sections of Irene Nemirovsky's projected five-part, 1000-page novel. Unless one is an expert in twentieth-century French fiction, he or she probably won't have heard of Irene Nemirovsky, once a best-selling novelist before World War II. But the facts now available   because of the publication of two of her novels, only recently brought out for the first time in France and now offered   in English translation, reveal that her talent was quite considerable and her personal story rather moving and tragic. It is a striking instance in which biography and artistic accomplishment are so inseparably intertwined.   The story of this highly acclaimed book's emergence decades after its author perished in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz in 1942 could itself be a meditation on the complexity of survival in a war against a genocidal foe: with acts of heroism, nobility, and courage as well as those of cowardice, collaboration, class privilege, delusion, and racism.

        Nemirovsky was born in Russia in 1903 into a Jewish banking family and emigrated with her family to France in the early 1920s. Ten years later she made a big splash with her novels, sold books to the movies, and converted to Catholicism. After France fell to the Germans, she began writing what she outlined as a five-volume novel about this horrific historical event. She had finished the first two books - Storm in June and Dolce - and had made copious notes for the other three when she was arrested by the Nazis. Shipped off to Auschwitz in 1942, she was never seen by her family again. After the war, her two daughters found a suitcase containing the manuscripts of Storm in June and Dolce and handwritten notes for the others. Now we have the English translation under...

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