cover image The Life of Irne Nmirovsky

The Life of Irne Nmirovsky

Olivier Philipponnat, Patrick Lienhardt, . Trans. by Euan Cameron. . Knopf, $35 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-307-27021-4

French biographers Philipponnat and Lienhardt draw on heretofore unexamined archives to present the turbulent, tragic life of Irène Némirovsky, author of the posthumous bestseller Suite Française. Némirovsky (1903–1942) lived through two great persecutions of the 20th century: the pogroms of her native Kiev and Odessa and, having fled Russia for France after the Russian revolution, the Holocaust. As WWII raged, with the Germans' relentless oppression of so-called “stateless people,” her conversion to Catholicismdid not save her. Némirovsky was taken to a concentration camp in the Loiret, then shipped to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she died with Suite Française uncompleted. This book elegantly balances her life and the work, painting a portrait (if at some distance) of a spirited young asthmatic writer, daughter, wife, and mother. Descended from cultural rather than religiously observant Jews, Némirovsky's artistic sensibility survived an early monotonous environment formed by her commercial-banker father and the scorn of her vain, spiteful mother. The authors nicely cover the French publishing industry during the high-flying days of success when Némirovsky's bestselling and controversial 1929 novel, David Golder , was published as well as the upper-crust émigré Parisian lifestyle of the Jazz Age. 43 photos. (May 10)