cover image David Golder; The Ball; Snow in Autumn; The Courilof Affair

David Golder; The Ball; Snow in Autumn; The Courilof Affair

Irene Nemirovsky, , trans. from the French by Sandra Smith; intro by Claire Messud. . Random/Everyman's Library, $25 (363pp) ISBN 978-0-307-26708-5

Through the 1920s and '30s Russian-Jewish émigré Némirovsky, author of the recently rediscovered and internationally bestselling Suite Française , was a popular and critically acclaimed novelist in her adopted France. These four short early novels reveal her clear-eyed view into the deeply compromised human heart. David Golder , her third novel and the only one in the volume previously available in English, is saturated with the despairing mood of its title character, an embittered Jewish business- and family man in ill health, left after the suicide of his bankrupt partner to question the value of the great petroleum fortune he has amassed. The Courilof Affair is narrated by Léon M., a dying Russian revolutionary: he recounts his relationship with Valerian Courilof, the minister of education in imperial Russia. Léon grew to like the decrepit, politically ruined Courilof, even as he was ordered to kill him. The Ball is a psychologically acute account of the relationship between a narcissistic French mother—married to her former boss, a rich German Jew—and their enraged adolescent daughter, Antoinette; the similarly brief Snow in Autumn is a tender portrait of an old, devoted Russian nanny who cannot adjust to life as an émigré in Paris. These four early works by Némirovsky reveal her impressive range, bitingly exact settings and insight into profoundly flawed and compromised characters. (Jan.)