"...I desperately want the insanity we're living through to end. I desperately want what has begun to finish. In a word, I desperately want this tragedy to be over and for us to try to survive it, that's all. What's important is to live: Premium vivere. One day at a time. To survive, to wait, to hope." (Maurice Michauds, page 179)
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (Vintage Books, 2004) examines the conflicts that arise between family, friends, and foe when forced to face one's greatest fears- the loss of life, love, and land. The title of the book was given to what Nemirovsky thought would be a collection of five novels but unfortunately only contains the completed two the author completed before being arrested in 1942 and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp where she was executed at the age of 39. The notebook containing the two novels was discovered by her daughter in 1998. It is extraordinary to conceptualize that Nemirovsky was writing about World War II as it was unfolding, weaving fiction and reality with such grace that one would presume she herself was writing history before it happened.
"Madame Angellier rang for the cook, who came in and closed the shutters.
Everything withdrew back into the night: the songs, the murmur of kisses, the soft
brightness of the stars, the footsteps of the conqueror on the pavement and the sigh of the
thirsty frog praying to the heavens for rain, in vain." (page 266)
Suite Francaise is a portrayal of life in France just prior to the German invasion followed by the German occupation. The author created several sets of characters, each with varying backgrounds, who cross paths in brief encounters, weaving all the pieces into one master work. A Russian-born novelist living in Paris at the start of the WWII, Nemirovsky explores the psychology of war and its impact on soldiers and citizens alike.
Nemirovsky's prose is effortlessly elegant as she details the strength of the French people, their struggles to survive and their fight to hold strong to their culture and customs as they face their conquerors. The author easily conjures the emotions of each character, exploring the impact of war on both the classes and the sexes. She had amazing gift to create a story that sympathized with all involved and portrayed world events before they could be digested and examined. Suite Francaise is both disheartening and hopeful, leaving the reader both exhausted and entirely fulfilled.
The second novel ends as the Germans are ordered to Moscow, leaving the reader with open hands- hungrily awaiting more words, yet satisfied with the beauty Nemirovsky conveyed during one of the darkest periods of world history.
Suite Francaise is currently being developed as a major motion picture.
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