Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Thoughts: Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky

Irène Némirovsky died in Auschwitz in 1942. A suitcase which harbored the manuscript of Suite Francaise was opened in the 90s for the first time. An unfinished masterpiece came to light. Némirovsky purposed a book build like a symphony made of five pieces. But there was only time for two pieces before she was deported.

The first part Storm in June deals with Parisian war refugees. Germany is up to take Paris and people see themselves forced to flee their homes, hastily pack their dearest belongings, catch a train or a car, or if that is not possible walk. On the streets reigns chaos, heavily packed cars have come to a halt because of a lack of gas, guest-houses are overcrowded and the refugees are hungry, especially the children. Nobody knows how long this, the war, the hunger, the misery, is going on. Those are the miserable conditions in 1940 in German-occupied France.

Némirovsky already introduces us to a varying set of characters in the first part, who all seem so real and whose problems are touching. There are the Michauds, an elderly couple, whose son fights in the war. Poor Madame Michaud keeps looking for the face of her son in the stream of passing soldiers. The Perrins, a rich family with a grumpy old grandpa on whom lays the hope of a rich heir and lots of children; one a young priest, who is killed by the orphan boys, which were entrusted on him and Hubert, who is only sixteen but wants to fight and therefore leaves his family. There is also Corbin, the owner of a bank, the Michauds are working for him, he has got an affair with a young dancer and now wants to safe her as well as his wife and the very important documents of the bank.

The second part Sweet deals with the young German soldiers occupying the villages. Each French family, be they aristocrats or peasants, has to take at least one enemy in. But the young Germans are polite and cheerful, they make a positive impression. Here and there gentle bonds are flowering. Quite a few are torn between the human beings those soldiers are and the enemy they represent.

Lucille is one of the main characters in the second part. She is meant to be a young and beautiful but cold woman. But the German officer living in her house stirs up some forgotten emotions.

Némirovsky's language mediates feelings and a sense for the surroundings. I especially loved that. Her linguistic pictures overwhelmed me now and then. One example would be the raindrops on the window panes running down like tears. I think everybody should read this and be swept away by the author's genius.

The story ends with the soldiers leaving for Russia. Némirovsky planned to take up a third part about imprisonment from here.

5 stars, of course!


  1. I loved this book and it was so sad. I think it is amazing that it even saw the day after being lost for so long.

  2. It seems like a sad book and it's sad what happened to the author. It's amazing someone found the book at all.