Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Life of Irene Nemirovsky: 1903-1942 by…

The Life of Irene Nemirovsky: 1903-1942

by Olivier Philipponnat, Patrick Lienhardt

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
761158,327 (4)2



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 2 mentions

This is the French original whose English translation was published last week as I believe.

From this book, it seems as though 'Le vin du solitude' is highly autobiographical, certainly with regard to Nemirovsky’s childhood and her relationship with her mother. I’m not sure that we really get an idea of what she was like–that may be inevitable with a biography of a writer, where we already seem to know more about the subject than any biography could tell us–and some events in her life happen offstage, presumably in the absence of any reliable evidence. For instance, one moment she’s studying Russian and comparative literature at the Sorbonne while going out having a good time with her friends, while the next she’s married to Michel Epstein and engaged in producing oeuvres alimentaires to make ends meet. OK, so her father’s fortune had disappeared about the time of his death, so that explains something…

How she met Michel Epstein, what their marriage was like–we never really learn. Similarly, while she was determined to love her daughters in the way that she had never been loved herself, it appears that she wanted to have them educated by governesses, so that they (like her) would not have any schoolfriends–an irony that surely deserves some comment or explanation.

I also didn’t get an idea of what ways her books are like those of other French writers of her time, and in what way they differ from them. There are odd cases where we learn about the same topics being treated by other writers, but nothing systematic. The eternal undergraduate would be inclined to claim that the difference is that at the end of her freedom she was in the Burgundian countryside with no occupation other than writing Suite Francaise and no way of gaining control over her circumstances except by rising above them into objectivity.

We do learn a lot about how much she earned for what book when it was published by whom, and indeed the reason given for her never seeking to cross the line into Vichy France was that she depended on a 'mensualite' from her publishers in Paris. At the same time, her mother lasted out the war years in Nice with forged Latvian papers, which makes it sound as though survival was merely a matter of technique.

Irene Nemirovsky est bien plus preoccupee de litterature que de sauver sa peau, mais il se pourrait que cela revienne au meme car: ‘Ce qui demeure: 1) notre humble vie quotidienne; 2) l’art; 3) Dieu.’

(slighly more at http://wp.me/pBfTB-g5) ( )
  priamel | Mar 14, 2010 |
By Olivier Philipponnat and Patrick Lienhardt (Trans: Euan Cameron)
Chatto and Windus, £25.
By 1942, French Jews were so restricted, they were even forbidden to ride a bicycle. Yet, as the corrupt, collaborationist Paris government issued one vicious, petty edict after another, the celebrated novelist Irène Némirovsky sat in a village only a few miles from the border where the Nazi writ had yet to run.
Why didn't she escape with her family to America when relatives appealed to her to leave? This biography asks the question but, throughout its absorbing detail, we still want to shout, like a pantomime audience, to her, : "Get out of there!"
Némirovsky's brilliant novel fragment Suite Francaise burst upon the literary world in 2005, the manuscript discovered in a suitcase her daughter had treasured, unopened, for 60 years believing it to contain her mother's handwritten diary. Entrusted to her the day her mother was arrested by the zealous French police in 1942, the 12-year-old Denise kept the suitcase safe during her years of flight from Gestapo persecution. Its quasi-miraculous appearance saw Némirovsky, murdered in Auschwitz aged 39, storm to the top of the international bestseller list.
She was born in Kiev in 1903. Her father Leonid was a hugely successful entrepreneur, a boy from the ghetto determined to give his only child the education and ease he never had.
When Némirovsky was 14, Leonid, no longer able to do business with the increasingly fanatical Bolshevik regime, led his wife and child in a desperate dash to the Finnish border then, after a year of privation in the snowy wastes of Finland, to Sweden and eventually to Paris, where he re-established his business empire and sent his beloved daughter to the Sorbonne.
Irène clashed with her beautiful mother, Anna, the "Enemy" of her first published work. Hatred of her mother is at the heart of her work. Anna is present in one heartless, immoral, vain and grasping character after another.

Strangely, this passionate malice towards her mother, is largely unexamined by Philipponnat and Lienhardt, who treat Irène's venom simply as an objective appraisal of Anna's character.
When the successful novel David Golder appeared, an admiring French public marvelled that such a young woman could show intimate knowledge of the mechanics and the motives of bankers and businessmen - and they were shocked at the cynical depravity of Golder's wife, Gloria. Némirovsky explained: "they are Mama and Papa".
Few writers have cast such a merciless gaze on their fellow-Jews. Her entire output, until Suite Francaise, is a hard-headed analysis of those around her. She conveys dramatically the pursuit of wealth in order to be accepted - and stay safe. The ultimate irony is that, even as she turned her coruscating pen on her parents, she herself was neither.
Despite a welter of anecdotes the biography is a hard read, written as it is in a high baroque style, replete with dramatic purple prose. On Némirovsky's conversion to Catholicism (which of course failed to save her or her husband), for example, the authors declaim: "Was it such a paradox that she was setting out on the Road to Emmaus at the very moment that The Dogs and the Wolves was asserting the ineluctable resurgence of the Jewish character…"
‘Celebrating Irène Némirovsky’, with Olivier Philipponnat, Denise Epstein (Némirovsky’s daughter), and Sandra Smith (fiction translator) is on Sunday March 7 at 6.30pm; Anne Garvey is a freelance writer based in Cambridge
added by KirstenLund | editwww.thejc.com (Dec 2, 2010)
The occupation of France remains, even now, a smouldering peat bog. Seventy years have passed, but the insult of the German invasion still has the power to cause eyes to flick away in a nation that, right up until the breakthrough at Sedan, believed itself infallible. There is also the lesion of what the French did to themselves. It was a French gendarme who arrested my aunt in Paris and oversaw her departure to the internment camp at Besançon. And it was a pair of gendarmes who on July 13 1942 knocked on the door of a short, asthmatic mother of two in the village of Issy-l’Évêque; a 39-year-old woman who, had her adopted country permitted it, might have survived to become the finest French novelist of the last century.

In 1929, in the words of this riveting biography, “the Némirovsky meteor had burst across the French literary sky”. That October, an unsolicited manuscript arrives at the Paris publisher Grasset. A weary editor picks it out of the slush-pile. He stays up all night, astounded by the novel’s violence and audacity. The power of the dialogue, unsentimental and crackling with banking jargon, suggests an author gruffer, more scathing even than Paul Morand (whose novels skewered Parisian high society). But who is the author of David Golder? The novel has been submitted by a mysterious “M Epstein” – Némirovsky’s husband, who typed it out – and gives only a poste restante. After repeated letters elicit no reply, the editor thinks of placing an advertisement in the newspapers: “Seeking author, having sent manuscript to the publisher Grasset under the name Epstein.” At the end of November, a shy young woman enters the office. “Forgive me for not coming sooner. I’ve just had a baby. I’m the author of David Golder: Irène Némirovsky.”
She had arrived in France 10 years earlier. She was a Russian-Jew from Kiev where she had experienced the pogroms (“Lynch the Jews, save Russia”) and seen first hand how a great danger can in a matter of moments “wipe out centuries of civilisation and piety”. She remembered ghettoes where children rolled in mud, the fumes of stale red wine and vomit that attended the Revolution, and the sight of machine-guns pattering from the rooftops. She escaped with her parents across the snow to Helsinki where she witnessed the Finnish civil war and thieves’ hands being chopped off. Her surname, fittingly, meant “he who knows no peace”. She herself said: “I never knew peaceful times, I’ve always lived in anxiety and often in danger.” David Golder’s two main protagonists indicate just how many of these anxieties and dangers were home-grown: “I simply drew a portrait of papa and mama.”

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Olivier Philipponnatprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lienhardt, Patrickmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Cameron, EuanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307270211, Hardcover)

The first major biography of the author of Suite Française

The posthumous publication of Suite Française won Irène Némirovsky international acclaim and brought millions of readers to her work. But the story of her own life was no less dramatic and moving than her most powerful fiction.

With her family, she escaped Russia in 1919 and settled in Paris, where she met and married fellow Jewish émigré Michel Epstein. In 1929 she published her highly acclaimed and controversial novel David Golder, the first of many successful books that established her stellar reputation. But when France fell to the Nazis, her renown did her little good: without French citizenship, she was forced to seek refuge in a small Burgundy village with her husband and their two young daughters. And in July 1942 Némirovsky was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died the following month.

Drawing on Némirovsky’s diaries, previously untapped archival material, and interviews, her biographers give us at once an intimate picture of her life and turbulent times and an illuminating examination of the ways in which she used the details of her remarkable life to create “some of the greatest, most humane, and incisive fiction [World War II] has produced” (The New York Times Book Review).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:12 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Drawing on Nemirovsky's diaries, previously untapped archival material, and interviews with surviving family members, Philipponnat and Lienhardt deliver the first major biography of the author of "Suite Francaise."

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
1 avail.
24 wanted

Popular covers


Average: (4)
4 1

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 117,079,234 books! | Top bar: Always visible