Saturday, 9 July 2011

Author of the month

Every month we like to choose a different author and create a small display of a selection of their titles with a short biography. This month's author is Irène Némirovsky a Jewish novelist and biographer born in the Ukraine, who lived and worked in France. Although recognized as a major author, the Nazi occupation of France put an end to her publishing career and on July 13, 1942,  Némirovsky (then 39) was arrested as a "stateless person of Jewish descent" by French police under the regulations of the German occupation and subsequently sent to Auschwitz where she died a month later.

Némirovsky is now best known as the author of Suite Française an unfinished work made up of two novellas portraying life in France between June 4, 1940 and July 1, 1941, the period during which the Nazis occupied Paris. Written during the period it describes, Suite Française  is considered to be a remarkable literary accomplishment - Némirovsky manages to evoke the domestic reality and personal trials of the ordinary French citizens during the occupation with considered reflection, while she herself was living through the same turmoil.

The story of how Suite Française  came to be published is also remarkable. The notebook containing the manuscript, which Némirovsky had managed to pass to her oldest daughter Denise, before her arrest, remained unread for fifty years as Denise believed  it was a journal or diary of her mother's, which would be too painful to read.  However, in the late 1990s, having made arrangements to donate her mother's papers to a French archive Denise decided to examine the notebook first. Upon discovering what it contained, she instead had it published in France, where it became a bestseller in 2004.

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