Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (Translated by Sandra Smith) - review by Caroline Moorehead

Caroline Moorehead

A Lost Manuscript

Suite Française


Chatto & Windus 403pp £16.99

‘To lift such a heavy weight, Sisyphus,’ wrote Irène Némirovsky in notes for her novel Suite Française, ‘you will need all your courage. I do not lack the courage to complete the task but the goal is far and time is short.’ She did not realise quite how short it would be. It was then June 1942. On 13 July the French police came to arrest her. She was interned in the concentration camp at Pithiviers, south of Orléans, and the next day deported to Auschwitz. A month later she was dead.

What she left behind, the weight heavy with hope and ambition, was two parts, Storm in June and Dolce, of a projected five-part novel that she hoped to publish as a single thousand-page volume, constructed in different rhythms and tones. She saw it as a symphony and took Beethoven's Fifth

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