Originally published in French in 2007, Oliver Philipponnat and Patrick Lienhardt’s biography of Irène Némirovsky explores the author’s life from her childhood to her deportation to Auschwitz from Issyl’Eveque, France, in 1942. From her family’s flight from Russia, to her tenuous relationship with her mother, her literary training at the Sorbonne, and her husband’s frantic attempts to discover her whereabouts during the war, Philipponnat and Lienhardt examine the connection between Némirovsky’s personal life and her writing, as well as the more controversial aspects of her career, from her literary representation of Jews to her publication in journals such as Gringoire. The work is written in a literary style, and the authors drew on Némirovsky’s novels and short stories, her notebooks, and other archival sources that are housed at the Institut Mémoires de l’Edition Contemporaine, as well as interviews and reviews in their research. Unlike other recent works on Némirovsky, Philipponnat and Lienhardt’s biography does not deal with the post-war reception of Suite Française. Instead, by leaving off after her death, they invite the reader to contemplate the complexities of Némirovsky’s life, her writing, her legacy, and the period in which she lived.
Sarah Shewchuk holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Alberta.