Fire in the Blood was probably written during the two years Irène Némirovsky lived with her family in Issy-l’Evêque, a small village in southern Burgundy, before her deportation to Auschwitz in July 1942 and subsequent death from typhoid. Like Suite Française (winner of France’s prestigious Prix Renaudot in 2004), the manuscript for the novel – thirty densely written pages – was among the papers salvaged by Némirovsky’s young daughters when they fled the village after their father, too, was deported to Auschwitz. The novel, ably translated by Sandra Smith, is published in English for the first time this month.
A less ambitious work than Suite Française, Fire in the Blood is a story about passion, which is described as an irresistible force, overwhelming in youth, forgotten in maturity. The novel is set in a community very similar to that of Issy-l’Evêque. The principal inhabitants of this unnamed region are