Suite Française

Paul Gray gives Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française a rave review in the Sunday New York Times Book Review. Suite was discovered in the 1990s by the author’s daughter, and turned out to be a novel of the Holocaust written during the horror that was unfolding.

The date of Némirovsky’s death induces disbelief. It means, it can only mean, that she wrote the exquisitely shaped and balanced fiction of “Suite Française” almost contemporaneously with the events that inspired them, and everyone knows such a thing cannot be done. In his astute cultural history, “The Great War and Modern Memory,” Paul Fussell describes the invariable progression — from the hastily reactive to the serenely reflective — of writings about catastrophes: “The significances belonging to fiction are attainable only as ‘diary’ or annals move toward the mode of memoir, for it is only the ex post facto view of an action that generates coherence or makes irony possible.”

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