February 22, 2007

TARNISH? DIDN'T SEEM TO HURT HAROLD PINTER:

Truth, lies and anti-semitism: Irène Némirovsky's last novel, written before her death in Auschwitz, caused a sensation when it was discovered in 2004. But the charge that she might have been anti-semitic - even though she was Jewish - threatens to stain her reputation. Stuart Jeffries investigates (Stuart Jeffries, February 22, 2007, The Guardian)

When Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française was published in English last year, something was left out. Just a few lines omit-ted from the introduction to the French edition that had appeared two years previously. Nothing to diminish the remarkable achievement of the writer's novel describing life in a French village under Nazi occupation. Nothing to undermine the ecstatic reviews - Le Monde called the book "a masterpiece ... ripped from oblivion" - and the fact that the novel has become a runaway bestseller.

And nothing to taint the story of the book's extraordinary appearance after 50 years tucked away in a French cellar, or the narrative of Némirovsky's tragic last years - stories that helped make Suite Française a literary sensation. Némirovsky, a Kiev-born Jewish woman, had settled in France with her wealthy family after the Russian revolution; become a literary celebrity on a par with Colette in 1930s Paris; was refused French citizenship shortly before the second world war broke out; and, in 1942, was deported to Auschwitz where she died, a stateless Jew, aged 39. For many years, the manuscript of her masterpiece, written on paper as thin as onion peel, had remained in a suitcase that she handed to her daughter Denise when she was arrested.

What was missing from the British Chatto & Windus edition was a passage in which Miriam Anissimov, a biographer of Primo Levi, suggested that Némirovsky was a self-hating Jew.

And the claims made in that passage have fuelled a transatlantic row about whether the writer was indeed an anti-semitic Jew who cosied up to some of the most unpleasant anti-semites in 1930s France. It's a row that threatens to tarnish the rather idealised image of Némirovsky that has been developed since her unfinished masterpiece was disinterred three years ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 22, 2007 4:15 PM
Comments

So people aren't perfect?

Posted by: Barry Meislin at February 22, 2007 4:30 PM

The link to the original article is bad. It should be this.

Posted by: PapayaSF at February 22, 2007 6:50 PM
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