November 18, 2008


(Dove balloons from a wedding in Chiba.)

Irène Némirovsky's five-part plan for her novel Suite française, which she started writing in 1941:

1. Storm (later changed to Storm in June)
2. Dolce
3. Captivity
4. Battles?
5. Peace?

Set in France, Suite weaves together multiple storylines to tell the intersecting fates of the French during World War II. Storm in June follows Parisians of various social backgrounds as they flee to the countryside, while Dolce focuses on a small rural town under German occupation. The bare bones of the latter three parts were in place, but before they could be written, the Jewish-born Némirovsky was sent to Auschwiz. She died there in 1942, after a month in the concentration camp.

Published in its unfinished form in 2004, Suite française gained worldwide attention for being a rare war novel that was written while the events were still unfolding. While this immediacy is one of the novel's its greatest assets, it meant that Némirovsky could only imagine what remained to be seen. The question mark at the end of the final part, Peace, is indicative of the despair and uncertainty she must have felt.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I recently read your post about Irène Némirovsky and wanted to let you know about an exciting new exhibition about her life, work, and legacy that opened on September 24, 2008 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage —A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française, which will run through the middle of March, will include powerful rare artifacts — the actual handwritten manuscript for Suite Française, the valise in which it was found, and many personal papers and family photos. The majority of these documents and artifacts have never been outside of France. For fans of her work, this exhibition is an opportunity to really “get to know” Irene. And for those who can’t visit, there will be a special website that will live on the Museum’s site

The Museum will host several public programs over the course of the exhibition’s run that will put Némirovsky’s work and life into historical and literary context. Book clubs and groups are invited to the Museum for tours and discussions in the exhibition’s adjacent Salon (by appointment). It is the Museum’s hope that the exhibit will engage visitors and promote dialogue about this extraordinary writer and the complex time in which she lived and died. To book a group tour, please contact Tracy Bradshaw at 646.437.4304 or Please visit our website at for up-to-date information about upcoming public programs or to join our e-bulletin list.

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