The Life of Irene Nemirovsky: 1903 – 1942

Oliv­er Philip­pon­nat and Patrick Lien­hardt; Euan Cameron, trans.
  • Review
By – September 19, 2011
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.

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