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David Golder [Paperback]

Irčne Némirovsky , Patrick Marnham , Sandra Smith
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Feb 2007

Translated by Sandra Smith, with an introduction by Patrick Marnham.

In 1929, 26-year-old Irène Némirovsky shot to fame in France with the publication of her second novel David Golder. At the time, only the most prescient would have predicted the events that led to her extraordinary final novel Suite Française and her death at Auschwitz. Yet the clues are there in this astonishingly mature story of an elderly Jewish businessman who has sold his soul.

Golder is a superb creation. Born into poverty on the Black Sea, he has clawed his way to fabulous wealth by speculating on gold and oil. When the novel opens, he is at work in his magnificent Parisian apartment while his wife and beloved daughter, Joyce`, spend his money at their villa in Biarritz. But Golder's security is fragile. For years he has defended his business interests from cut-throat competitors. Now his health is beginning to show the strain. As his body betrays him, so too do his wife and child, leaving him to decide which to pursue: revenge or altruism?

Available for the first time since 1930, David Golder is a page-turningly chilling and brilliant portrait of the frenzied capitalism of the 1920s and a universal parable about the mirage of wealth.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (1 Feb 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099493969
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099493969
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 75,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Her deceptively simply and understated style is best suited to shorter fiction: her touch is light, but with an underlying darkness that bears witness to exile, marginality and existential frustration" (Aamer Hussein Independent)

"This is a writer of rare power, make no mistake" (Evening Standard)

"A sordid tragedy that makes us for the thousandth time question the worth of human existence. The impression remains with the reader that it is the work of a woman who has the strength of one of the masters like Balzac or Dostoyevsky" (New York Times, 1930)

"A powerful description of a man's relentless decline" (Ian Critchley Sunday Times)

"Striking first work, sensitively translated by Sandra Smith" (Sunday Telegraph)

Book Description

Published to coincide with the Vintage paperback edition of Suite Francaise.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic - A modern classic 12 April 2008
By Sofia
Right from the first page, when David Golder refuses to help his business partner out of financial difficulties, this is a page-turner. An old-school personal fable, a morality tale about the perils of personal fortune and narcissism, Nemirovsky's short work is reminiscent of Dickens, Balzac and Tolstoy, yet it is a resolutely modern tale of cut-throat financial speculation. It should be compulsory reading for anyone seeking or more especially guarding a fortune!

David Golder and his family and associates are deeply unattractive people and there appears to be much anti-semitic stereotyping deployed here, although it is fair to say that Nemirovsky both knew this world from her upbringing and marriage and also wrote this before the Nazi rise to power in neighbouring Germany. That aside, this is a fantastic novel. David Golder is a thoroughly believable and believably flawed individual; for all his faults, I felt sorry for him and wanted to know how things would pan out. I had trouble putting this down, it's a real classic, in an old-school way, but a real gem to read.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nemirovsky's first novel is brilliant debut 19 Aug 2008
Irene Nemirovsky's brilliant first book (originally published in France in 1929) deals with the eponymous businessman, a ruthless man in his late sixties who has amassed an enormous wealth, but who increasingly faces a brutal reversal of fortune. Hated by his wife and daughter (who only expect money from him), with a heart condition that augurs him just a few months of life, his business deals collapsing, he looks at his life and sees that he has never loved anyone, except a daughter that may not be really his. Reportedly autobiographical (Nemirovsky was the estranged daughter of an exiled Russian Jewish banker; she could be the inspiration for Golder's daughter Joyce), what is a bit disturbing about the book is how Golder's greed and the materialism of his wife and daughter are seen as an exclusively Jewish trait; to her defence, Nemirovsky wrote this before Hitler's rise to power, but in in a post-Holocaust world, this gives the book a strange feeling as if it was written by a very talented antisemite (paradoxically, Nemirovsky died in Auschwitz).
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Money and Greed 17 Dec 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is written in a completely,different style to Suite Francaise.In that book her style has matured and ripened into a dense,descriptive narrative.In the earlier David Golder,very little description,instead an intense economy of narrative,no ornamentation whatsoever,just brutal emotions.
A compelling read,which l had trouble reading slowly,as the sheer force of the writing drove me quickly onto the next page.She often comes close to characature with the characters in that they are so unrelentingly selfish and self-absorbed.Irene though stays within reality,just.
The author,jewish, has been wrongly suggested to be anti-semetic.She is that rare person who is critical of her own race and culture,but remains firmly within it.
The theme of pursuit of money at the expense of humanity is wonderfully explored.When Golders health deserts him,he wants to turn to something for comfort,but nothing exists as he has destroyed all possible compassion towards him.His own daughter and wife only seek money from him.
As a young women you can sense Irene's burning emotions in the book.The headstrong and uncompromising book reflects the young heart of the writer.Later in Suites Franscaise,her emotions have matured to a reflective and sad adult,and hence a different narration.A must read
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a small jewel 1 Jun 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
From the first opening word -"No" - to the last, when its hero (or anti-hero) denies his partner a loan, this is a weirdly topical novel about debt, fraud, business and basnkruptcy. Golder, like Balzac's Pere Goriot, is exploited by the only person he loves, his beautiful daughter. Having raised himself (and her selfish mother) from the ghetto of a distant Russian slum by harsh dealings to owning a princely villa in the S of France worth millions of francs, he is about to undergo serious reversals. The bitter comedy and black irony give it a satirical edge which became both more pronounced and more human in Suite Francaise. It reminded me a little of Daphne du Maurier's 'Julius' but is by a greater, harsher writer. She captures her characters to perfection, and shows how a suffering human spirit can exist even in the crudest and cruellest of men.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nemirovsky 26 Mar 2010
This is a wonderful book to read, & perhaps to consider alongside your understanding of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. As a Jewess, a member of an ex Russian, rich banking family, a fully integrated citizen in pre-war France, Irene Nemirovsky is wonderfully placed to capture the many facets of David Golder, a rich Jew who came up the hard way from very humble geginnings, but who turns out to be a more complex, and even a more sympathetic character, than one first assumes. Again, a wonderfully written book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous and topical from 1929 17 Aug 2009
Nemirovsky's prose is unfaltering, acute in its observation, shocking in its portrayal of base emotion and remarkably current. This is 1929, remember, and yet here we have someone described as a wimp.

David Golder is as cold a character as Gordon Gekko ever was and as ruthless in pursuit of money. Golder would have us believe that he was a money-making machine only because of his responsibilities to his wife and daughter but, as Gloria his wife says, his only interest ever was business.

Nemirovsky portrays a family, the Golders; David Golder is a self-made Jewish financier who cares for no-one but chooses to over-indulge his wife, and her lovers, and his shameless, hedonistic daughter, who is far too young to be living the life she does. The Golders inhabit a world as racy as anything one might read in today's tabloid press, profligate and elitist, completely disengaged from what we might term reality. This can only be the roaring twenties and yet somehow we engage with it and our animosity is aroused. How can Gloria and Joyce be so mecenary, does that not give credence to Golder's assertion that he was only put on this earth to make money for his wife and daughter to fritter away.

They are, ultimately, a symbiotic trio, each existing, in some way, to fuel the other to perform yet greater feats in their own area of expertise; David's is to make money, Joyce to spend it and Gloria to grab and hoard what she can for her own benefit.
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