Since the release of her English translation of Suite Française in 2006, Sandra Smith has translated many works by Irène Némirovsky, including David Golder, All Our Worldly Goods, Fire in the Blood, The Courilof Affair, The Dogs and the Wolves, and Jezebel. Now The Wine of Solitude, originally published in French in 1935, has been added to that list. This four-part novel explores the life of Hélène Karol, the daughter of Boris Karol, a businessman and an incessant gambler, and his unfaithful wife, Bella. Set against a backdrop of the seminal events of the early twentieth century, including the start of World War I, the February and October Revolutions in Russia, the assassination of Rasputin, and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, Nemirovsky’s novel traces the Karol family’s life in Russia, Finland, and France. Within this larger framework, Némirovsky examines the fraught relationships between Hélène, her French governess Mademoiselle Rose, her mother, and her mother’s lover. Notably, the book explores themes that are present throughout Némirovsky’s writing, including the tensions between mothers and daughters and the individual and interpersonal consequences of characters’ experiences of historical events, and has autobiographical resonances, including Némirovsky’s difficult relationship with her own mother and the trajectory of her movement from Russia to France. As such, when considered within the context of her oeuvre and the plethora of biographical information that has recently been published about Némirovsky, The Wine of Solitude shines further light for English readers on the relationship between Némirovsky’s life and work.
The Wine of Solitude
Sarah Shewchuk holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Alberta.
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