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The Life of Irene Nemirovsky: 1903-1942 [Hardcover]

Patrick Lienhardt , Olivier Philipponnat , Euan Cameron
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Product Description


'In its respectfulness and its dense poetic asides, beautifully translated by Euan Cameron, this tremendous biography is also very French' --Daily Telegraph, February 2010

You Really Must Read --Sunday Times Culture

`An important contribution to understanding a complex, painful but ultimately triumphant story'. --The Sunday Telegraph

`... a memorable portrait of a strong, determined, sarcastic and humorous woman.' -- Literary Review

'Phillipponnat and Lienhardt scrupulously examine the extent to which Nemirovksy mined her own life and parental relationships for her fiction.' -- Metro

'... lavish in style and high in ambition.'
-- The Times

`The tragic life of the Suite Française'. --The Sunday Times

Book Description

A remarkable, panoramic biography of the author of Suite Française, a moving portrait of a woman and of her extraordinary times, and a sweeping saga of a turbulent period of European history, holding up a mirror to the world of publishing, intellectual thought, society and the darker shadow of prejudice between the wars.

From the Inside Flap

This remarkable, panoramic biography of the author of Suite Française is a moving portrait of a woman and a sweeping saga of a turbulent period of European history, holding up a mirror to the world of publishing, intellectual thought, society and the darker shadow of prejudice between the wars.

Irène Némirovsky's own life was as dramatic as any fiction. Dead at thirty-nine, author of sixteen novels, a biography of Chekhov and many stories, few writers enjoy a posthumous resurgence as astonishing as hers after the international triumph of Suite Française. She was born in 1903 in Kiev to a well-off Jewish family. The authors of this fascinating biography have had access to previously unpublished documents and to surviving family members in Russia, researching her childhood in the Ukraine, and tracing her odyssey first to St Petersburg, where her father was a successful financier, and then, as the family was forced to flee the Russian Revolution, to Finland, Sweden and finally France in 1919.

They settled in Paris, and in 1926 she married another Jewish émigré, Michel Epstein. With the publication of David Golder in 1929 - delivered to a publisher just before the delivery of her first daughter, Denise - Irène swiftly became an acclaimed and successful writer. For a few years theirs was a hardworking, happy existence during which Irène wrote prolifically, both stories and novels.

Minutely considering and defending her against charges of anti-semitism, her biographers (who had access to all her writing diaries) examine in detail the way she used her life in her fiction (David Golder, Le Bal, The Wine of Solitude, The Dogs and the Wolves and others), from pogroms in Ukraine to gilded holidays in Biarritz, and especially the troubled relationship with her capitalist father and her vain and difficult mother.

By 1937, and with the birth of a second daughter, Elisabeth, life for Irène and Michel was less easy. And the coming of the Second World War put paid to everything. When France fell to the Nazis, the family took refuge in a small Burgundy village, just inside the occupied zone, where she finished All Our Worldly Goods, wrote Fire in the Blood and immediately began Suite Française. In July 1942 Irène was arrested by the French police and deported to Auschwitz, where she died the following month.

Meticulously researched and passionately felt, this is a vibrant biography of an exceptional writer and a moving portrait of a 20th-century woman and of her dramatic times.

From the Back Cover

[Wednesday 15th July 1942, Pithiviers]

My dearest love

Don't worry about me. I have arrived safely. For the time being, there is disarray, but the food is very good. I was even astonished. A parcel and a letter may be sent once a month.

Above all, don't be anxious. Things will settle down, my dearest. I hug you as I do the children with all my heart, with all my love.


[16th July 1942]

Thursday morning

My dearest, my beloved little ones

I think we are leaving today. Courage and hope. You are all in my heart, my dears. May God protect us all.

About the Author

Olivier Philipponnat and Patrick Lienhardt are the authors of an acclaimed biography of Roger Stéphane. For this biography of Nemirovsky they have had unprecedented access to unpublished letters, notebooks and archives.
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