Mary's Library

Sunday, May 07, 2006

"The gods wouldn't do that to me."

This morning I spent a couple of hours reading a novel I borrowed from the library on Friday. I never got to page one. I was reading the author’s comments on the situation in France in 1941 and 42, her plans for the novel, and a collection of her letters and those of her husband. These appendices are heartbreaking.

I’m reluctant to begin the novel because I already know the ending, and it’s a sad one. Not the ending of the story but of the author, Irene Nemirovsky, a Russian émigré from the Ukraine who was a successful writer living in Paris in 1939 when the war began.

She was also a Jew and in 1942 she was arrested by the Nazis and taken to Auschwitz, where she died a month later. The two sections of her novel that Nemirovsky wrote before she was killed were published for the first time in France in 2004, and have just been published under the title Suite Francaise in an English translation by Sandra Smith (©2006.)

The story begins with the flight in 1941 of Parisians to the unoccupied area of the country, and their struggle to face the annihilation of the world they have known. The second part of the book describes the difficulties of life in a German-occupied village.

As for the last three sections, as Nemirovsky wrote in her notebook, in 1942 they were “in limbo . . . it’s really in the lap of the gods since it depends on what happens. And the gods could find it amusing to wait a hundred or even a thousand years as the saying goes: and I’ll be far away. But the gods wouldn’t do that to me.”


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