Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fire in the Blood

I never did finish Irene Nemirovsky’s Suite Francaise but have felt it is my duty as a reader to actually complete a book by this recently-popularized and -acclaimed author. As such, I tackled something a little smaller: Fire in the Blood.

Fire in the Blood is a short novel that takes place in provincial France, among farmers and millers. The narrator is Silvio, an older man who finds himself involved in the scandalous love affairs of several neighbors in his community, including his relatives. As the story develops, Silvio discovers that he, himself, is involved in the scandal because of decisions he made twenty years earlier.

In many ways, the tone, setting, and even plot reminds me of Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome. Both books take place in farming communities; both books have young characters dissatisfied with their marriages; in both books, affairs lead to tragedy. And in each book, I felt little remorse from the characters over their basically disastrous decisions.

A lot of fuss has been made over Nemirovsky and the two books she wrote before the Nazi invasion of France. Nemirovsky was later killed in Auschwitz. I feel a bit like a heretic saying this, but I think much of the fascination with Nemirovsky is due to her interesting personal history and not an amazing writing ability. Fire is interesting and well written, but it is nothing spectacular (though the translator could be somewhat at fault for this). I no longer feel guilty for not finishing Suite Francaise.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Sinnreich said...

I recently read your post about Irène Némirovsky and wanted to let you know about an exciting new exhibition about her life, work, and legacy that will open on September 24, 2008 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage —A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française, which will run through the middle of March, will include powerful rare artifacts — the actual handwritten manuscript for Suite Française, the valise in which it was found, and many personal papers and family photos. The majority of these documents and artifacts have never been outside of France. For fans of her work, this exhibition is an opportunity to really “get to know” Irene. And for those who can’t visit, there will be a special website that will live on the Museum’s site www.mjhnyc.org.
The Museum will host several public programs over the course of the exhibition’s run that will put Némirovsky’s work and life into historical and literary context. Book clubs and groups are invited to the Museum for tours and discussions in the exhibition’s adjacent Salon (by appointment). It is the Museum’s hope that the exhibit will engage visitors and promote dialogue about this extraordinary writer and the complex time in which she lived and died. To book a group tour, please contact Tracy Bradshaw at 646.437.4304 or tbradshaw@mjhnyc.org. Please visit our website at www.mjhnyc.org for up-to-date information about upcoming public programs or to join our e-bulletin list.
Thanks for sharing this info with your readers. Let me know if you need any more.
-Elizabeth Sinnreich (executiveintern@mjhnyc.org)