The Wine of Solitude

Irene Nemirovsky; San­dra Smith, trans.
  • Review
By – September 13, 2012

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. 

Addi­tion­al Titles by Irène Némirovsky

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