Sunday, July 02, 2006

Voices lost

From the dust jacket of Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise:

"In the early 1940s, when Ukrainian-born Irene Nemirovsky began working on what would become Suite Francaise -- the first two parts of a planned five-part novel -- she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942, she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz: a month later she was dead at the age of thirty-nine. Two years earlier, living in a small village in central France -- where she and her husband, and their two small daughters had fled in a vain attempt to elude the Nazis -- she'd begun her novel, a luminous portrayal of human drama in which she herself would become a victim. When she was arrested, she had completed two parts of the epic; her daughters took the manuscript with them into hiding. Sixty-four years later, at long last, we can read Nemirovsky's literary masterpiece."

I am reading the novel and am dazzled by it -- even via the translation by Sandra Smith. There is, in addition, the awful feeling of knowing that the author would soon be murdered. A little like reading Anne Frank but Nemirovsky's work is not a memoir.

The murder of innocents is tragic. The tragedy is brought home to us all the more when the innocents have the skills and the means to report from their perilous vantage.