Fire in the Blood is a beautiful chamber piece which starts
quietly, lyrically, but then races away with revelations and narrative
in a story about young women forced into marriages with old men, about
mothers and daughters, stepmothers and stepdaughters, youthful passions
and the regrets of old age, about peasant communities and the ways
they hide their secrets. Némirovsky looks at her characters,
both young and old, with the same clear-eyed distance and humanity
as she displayed in Suite française, unpeeling layer
after layer. As atmospheric and haunting as Sándor Márai’s
Embers, and with the crystalline perfection of Chekhov, Fire in
the Blood is
another gripping literary find.
Number of pages: 160
Irène Némirovsky’s brilliant 1940 novel Suite française was a surprise bestseller earlier this year (2006). Némirovsky published more than a dozen novels and several biographies in her short lifetime, achieving acclaim in her adopted country of France. But information about the life and career of the Russian-born Jewish novelist, who died in Auschwitz in 1942 at the age of 39, has been scarce. This short critical biography by Weiss, an expert on contemporary French literature, is a fine introduction to her work. Némirovsky attained literary stature in France in 1930 with the publication of David Golder, a satiric portrait of the Parisian Jewish business community. Weiss’s analysis of the Jewish press’s negative response to David Golder (they “reeled, as if struck by a bomb”) is excellent. Némirovsky continued to have a fruitful literary career until her deportation to Auschwitz. Weiss offers a discussion of Némirovsky’s 1939 conversion to Catholicism, which appears to have been sincere although at the same time she was exploring the personal meaning of Judaism in her life. At times Weiss relies too heavily on autobiographical readings of Némirovsky’s novels, but such a tack is understandable given that we are in the early stages of scholarly work to be done, of which this is a fascinating and important beginning.
Title: Irene Nemirovsky: Her Life And Works
Number of pages: 224