Book “Suite française” by Irène Némirovsky

When she was deported to Auschwitz, Irène Némirovsky left her two daughters a suitcase that they kept for decades. This suitcase accompanied Élisabeth and Denise Epstein from one refuge to another, from Catholic boarding schools to cellars. The sisters were aware of the existence of a notebook but, believing it to be simple notes or their mother’s diary, unable to rekindle their grief, they did not dare to read it. Years later, Élisabeth, now a literary director, decided to entrust her mother’s last work to the Institut Mémorie de l’Édition Contemporanie. Thus, the manuscript of French Suite. An exceptional novel which, in 2004, won the Renaudot Prize, awarded for the first time to a deceased author. Irène Némirovsky’s Suite française thus became one of those essential works, a novel that must be read.


Suite française: an exceptional book written under exceptional conditions

Portada libro suite francesa irene nemirovsky

With a clear autobiographical component, Suite française opens in Paris in the days before the German invasion. The book is a lucid and moving portrait of France and the French during the German occupation. Through its pages the reader learns the routes of exodus, the story of invaded villages, of disgusted bourgeoisie unable to give up their comforts, of women and children abandoned to their fate, of invaders and invaded. The story of millions of lives marked by an imposed war.

Written with great sensitivity, Suite française shows a point of view that is not so often exploited in war novels. On the one hand, the exodus and the differences between classes. On the other, the suffering of a people occupied, invaded, stripped of rights and at the service of those in command, with the added uncertainty of not knowing what will happen next.

Irène Némirovsky portrays a sad reality in Suite française with an extremely beautiful style and undeniable mastery. With a very well-drawn plot line, the author mixes the heartbreaking, infinitely human stories of the different characters. With all their greatness and their misery. In short, an essential work. An absolutely recommended reading.

Sociological analysis of different behaviours in extreme situations

The bourgeois who only cares about safeguarding his possessions, the German soldier lodged in a house seducing a woman, the inability to understand the sympathy one can feel for the invader and vice versa, people desperate to be able to spend the night even in a chair or the need of the peasants to keep their land. In Suite française Irène Némirovsky sharply portrays human behaviour in the most extreme situations imaginable. Those of hunger, of need, of grief and pain. His characters are utterly convincing. With their fears, their bravery, their cowardice, their despair, their pride and their desires in the face of such a terrible event as the consequences of war and the sense of survival.

Suite française: its adaptation for the cinema

In 2015, the book Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky was made into a film directed by Saul Dibb. The film’s cast includes Michelle Williams, Kristin Scott Thomas and Matthias Schoenaerts, among others. With a screenplay by the director himself and Matt Charman and music by Jael Jones, the plot focuses on one of the stories in the novel, that of Lucile Angellier(Michelle Williams), a young woman who, together with her mother-in-law, awaits the arrival of her husband and Bruno(Matthias Schoenaerts), the elegant and refined German officer who now occupies her home. A relationship will develop between them that will be closely watched by the young woman’s mother-in-law(Kristin Scott Thomas).

About the author Irène Némirovsky

Irène Némirovsky (Kiev, 1903-Auschwitz, 1942) received an exquisite education. After fleeing the Bolshevik revolution, her family settled in Paris in 1919, where Irène graduated from the Sorbonne with a Bachelor of Arts degree. In 1929 her first novel David Golder launched a brilliant literary career. But the Second World War tragically marked her fate. Deported to Auschwitz, she was murdered there along with her husband Michel Epstein.


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