Suite française – Irène Némirovsky

Suite française  is the title of a planned sequence of five novels by Irène Némirovsky, a French writer of Ukrainian-Jewish origin. In July 1942, having just completed the first two of the series, Némirovsky was arrested as a Jew and detained at Pithiviers and then Auschwitz, where she was murdered, a victim of the Holocaust. The notebook containing the two novels was preserved by her daughters but not examined until 1998. They were published in a single volume entitled Suite française in 2004.

Suite française, so far as it was completed, was written in microscopic handwriting in a single notebook. It would possibly be the earliest work of literary fiction about the Second World War, and is remarkable as a historical novel sequence written during the period that it depicts, transformed far beyond the level of a journal of events such as might be expected to emerge from the turmoil and tragedy Némirovsky experienced.
It is extraordinary that the manuscript should have survived in such extreme circumstances, having been taken by Irene Némirovsky’s daughter Denise as she was being helped to flee from hiding place to hiding place during wartime.
Denise, however, kept the notebooks containing the nearly indecipherable manuscript of Suite française unread in an old suitcase for more than sixty years, convinced that it would indeed be a painful diary reminding her of the war that would not be beneficial to read. In the late 1990s, having made arrangements to contribute these manuscripts to a French archive, Denise decided to decipher the notebooks first, which resulted in the rediscovery of the original manuscripts of the fictional work Suite française which she had published in association with publisher Olivier Rubinstein in France in 2004.

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