on 12 April 2008
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.
on 19 August 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).
on 17 December 2008
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
A well told short story (just 159 pages) about some truly dreadful people: David Golder has risen from having been a poverty-stricken young Jew in the Ukraine to being, in the 1920s, a powerful speculative financier, now living in France. Apart from loving his 18-year-old daughter Joyce, he thinks about nothing but making money, in pursuit of which he is completely ruthless. Joyce - vain, beautiful, and utterly spoilt - does not deserve his love: David even knows that for her he is simply a milch-cow for her extravagant and showy life-style. So he is for his coarse and greedy wife Gloria, from the same background as himself. She constantly rows with him, is never satisfied with the huge amounts of money she extracts from him, some of which she passes on to her elderly lover who, like her, panics that David might die without having made adequate provisions for her. And when David falls ill - graphic descriptions of his illness abound - that becomes a distinct possibility. He knows that nobody loves him, becomes increasingly lonely, and eventually his Achilles Heel - or rather, both his Achilles Heels - do for him, though the agony is much prolonged. One can't help feeling sorry for him in the end.
Némirovsky, who was herself Jewish and the daughter of a Russian-born banker, believed in assimilation and has been described as a self-hating Jew. How else could she have published such a book at a time when French anti-Semitism was powerfully entrenched in right-wing circles in France? So there is a feeling of discomfort at reading this novel - intensified by the knowledge that she was to die in Auschwitz - which one does not have about her later books like All Our Worldly Goods and Suite Française (see my reviews).
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.
on 9 July 2013
There was a time when it was perfectly acceptable to write short novels without the danger of it being classed as a `novella'. David Golder is short - 159 pages of large type in paperback, but it says everything that's necessary - terse, efficient and unsettling. It was first published in 1929 but it's a modern parable.
The central character is a wealthy entrepreneur, who has made his money from oil and financial currency speculation (sound familiar?). David had been born in Russia, on the Black Sea, in extreme poverty and had come to Europe and America, as many Jews did, to escape the pograms. But it's a long time since he has thought about his origins. Now, David is in his late sixties, and his body is beginning to show the stress of a life spent amassing wealth by constantly taking risks. He is overweight, physically unfit, driven, lonely and unhappy. Taken to a small kosher restaurant in the poor quarter of Paris by an old acquaintance, he has a moment of recall.
`Outside, a man walked by carrying a long pole; he touched the street lamp opposite the restaurant and a flame shot out, lighting up a narrow, dark window where washing was hanging above some empty old flowerpots. Golder suddenly remembered a little crooked window just like it, opposite the shop where he'd been born . . . remembered his street, in the wind and snow, as it sometimes appeared in his dreams.
"It's a long road," he said out loud.'
David's wife Gloria and daughter Joy live a life of luxury in Biarritz, supported by his money. They have no affection for him and, as his life begins to collapse around him in the financial melt-down of the late nineteen twenties, he begins to realise that he may have spent his life in a hopeless quest.
`What a fool he was! He had really believed he could possess something precious on this earth . . . To work all his life just to end up empty-handed, alone and vulnerable, that was his fate.'
But this isn't just a moral tale of the Midas type. David Golder is the product of what poverty and despair have created between them. It's a very powerful novel - the first one that Irene Nemirovsky published, when she was only 26 and living in France. Quite a startling feat for a young woman to portray the anguish of growing old and the fear of death. It is apparently a portrait informed by her father, who was a Russian refugee in Paris - forced to take a job in the same bank he had once owned, but destined to rebuild his financial empire again at the cost of his family life. He is not an attractive figure: `Golder was an enormous man . . . he had flabby arms and legs, piercing eyes the colour of water, thick white hair and a ravaged face so hard it looked as if it had been hewn from stone by a rough, clumsy hand.'
David Golder's wife Gloria is believed to owe much to Irene's own unhappy mother, and this too is not a flattering portrait. Gloria cares only for status and wealth - her diamonds, her house, her white Rolls Royce and her lovers - burying the memories of Havke, the impoverished Jewish girl, daughter of a money lender, who had left Russia with David Golder in search of a new life. It seems that the only thing they ever had in common was a desire for material wealth. Gloria and Joy are parasites who, when one host has gone, will re-attach themselves to another. Despite Golder's enormity - he's a monster - we are left, at the end of the novel, with a great sadness and sympathy. That is the great achievement of the young Irene Nemirovsky.
on 21 May 2015
This is a page turning book by the gifted and now famous Irene Nemirovsky. It is a dark and also sad tale of an émigré businessman who sold his soul in the pursuit of wealth. The narrative covers the final months of his life as his health deteriorates and he loses everything he has achieved and striven for in terms of business, wealth and family. The writing is skilful and beautiful in its simplicity. A short book, with a short list of characters who are fully drawn and developed in their relationships of betrayal with the wealthy David Golder. A very good read, perhaps with lessons for today's wealth-seekers.
on 23 October 2015
As with Suite Francaise - see elsewhere on my Profile page - this is so excellent & emotional that you think it's almost true but then you read her life's story so it's not surprising! I preferred this - I thought it really good.
on 17 August 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. Here we have the intrigue of extra-family liaisons, snide business deals where everyone is prepared to sell out their partner and the complete absence of politics, except for scant reference to bourgeois versus proletarian Russia late in the novel, a hark back to Nemirovsky's then still recent past experience, all redolent of a time when life was free and the terror of Nazi persecution was a long way off.
Nonetheless, Nemorovsky's pertrayal of a cold-hearted, money-grabbing Jew was dangerous territory even then, pandering to an all too common stereotype and, more importantly and unforseen, setting a trap for herself in the years to come. Bold, brave and immensely readable even today, this novel set Nemirovsky rightly in the vanguard of her age.
on 26 March 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.