Friday, January 7, 2011
The Sad Truth about a Gifted Writer
So I'm sitting there by the pool, and the guy next to me says, "You know. That story about the manuscript being found. I heard it's not really true. Just a publicity stunt." Had he been a Holocaust denier, I would have jumped down his throat right then. But not knowing the details (or having yet read the book's afterword), I simply shrugged and turned back to my book.
So let me tell you this. That guy -- dead wrong. The story -- all of it from the family's escape from Russia when Irène was a teen, her rise to fame as an author in France during the 1920s, her conversion from Judaism to Catholicism in the 1930s, her fruitless attempts to become a naturalized French citizen, her husband's desperate attempts to locate her after her arrest, their subsequent deaths in Auschwitz at the hands of the Nazis, and their daughters' remarkable survival --- is true. And if you want to know the details, get yourself to the Mémorial de la Shoah in the Marais between now and March 8 for the free exhibition: Irène Némirovsky: Il me semble parfois que je suis étrangère. The exhibit includes photos, letters, press clippings, videos, as well as the suitcase which Denise Epstein guarded all those years. It's a tragic story on many levels -- personal and societal -- but well worth your time. And if you're not in Paris, and you haven't yet read any of her works, get thee to a bookstore or a library. In addition to Suite Française, I can also recommend Le Bal, a slim volume set in turn of the century Paris. The novel that was most famous in her lifetime and also made into a major motion picture, David Golder, is next on my list.