Irène Némirovsky

(February 24th, 1903 — August 17th, 1942)

Irène Némirovsky was a Ukranian-Jewish author, who lived and worked in France. Though she was denied French citizenship, she had spent more than half of her life in France. She had married there, had both of her two children there, and owned property there by the time of her death.

Némirovsky’s family left the Ukraine in 1917, when she was only fourteen years old. Fleeing the Russian Revolution, they spent a year in Finland before finally settling in Paris. Némirovsky went to school at Sorbonne and began writing at the age of 18.

In 1926, she married her husband, Michael Epstein.

Her first novel, David Golder, was a big success and was immediately adapted to film. Her second novel, La Bal, became both a play and a movie. By the late 30s, Némirovsky was widely recognized as a major French author.

Unfortunately, despite a conversion to Roman Catholicism in an attempt to gain citizenship, Némirovsky was facing increasing anti-semitism as WWII approached. The Nazis were beginning to occupy France, and she was losing work. Her husband lost his job at the bank he worked at, and most of her publishers would no longer publish her work because of her Jewish ethnicity. Némirovsky continued to be able to publish her fiction in a right-wing ultranationalist magazine, which was one of  the only sources of income for her family.

By 1940, the Nazi occupation of Paris had begun. Her daughters had been sent away to safety. Initially, she and her husband stayed in Paris, but they eventually were forced to flee to the countryside. In 1942, Némirovsky was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. She died there of typhus.

Irène Némirovsky is a book author.

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Suite Française

20th Century

These two novels were written in 1942, before their author was arrested by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz where she died of typhoid. The novels and notes were kept in a suitcase and taken by her daughter when she fled from the Nazis during the war. After that, the suitcase remained unopened until 1998. This is a review of Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française.