Conflict is inevitable. War is not.

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Posted on: January 24th, 2016 by BWNWAdmin No Comments

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

General Sherman famously said that war is hell. What Irene Nemirovsky shows in the novel, Suite Francaise, is how the hell of the battlefield spreads insidiously to noncombatants. Under occupying German forces, the French themselves lose their veneer of empathy and humanity. “The compassion of civilization fell from her like useless ornaments, revealing her bare, arid soul.”  When the Parisians flee ahead of the invading forces, as often as not, they are met with inflated prices and closed doors. “There were just too many of them. It prevented the townspeople from being charitable.” The crisis of war and occupation did not bring out the best in people. There is little nobility or valor or courage in this ironic story, but rather infighting, jealousy, and collaboration with the enemy.

Nemirovsky is embedded in the story. A Jew, she and her husband and two small daughters fled Paris for the countryside where they hoped to elude the Nazis. But just as her novel was interrupted, so was her life. In 1942, she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz where she died. With the help of their governess, the little girls survived along with the suitcase that held their mother’s manuscript. Sixty-four years, after Irene’s death, her work was finally published. We are fortunate that we can now read how she bravely “denounced fear, cowardice, acceptance of humiliation, of persecution and massacre.” Another cost of the war was the loss of her genius.

Review by Dorothy Sampson

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