Four Novels Hardcover – Sep 11 2008
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In 2006 English readers worldwide were introduced to Irène Némirovsky's rediscovered masterpiece, Suite Française, which topped just about every "best of" list that year, including our own. Thanks to the editors of the Everyman's Library 20th-Century Classics series, a second wave of the prolific author's writing has just hit our shores. In a single volume, readers can find four of Nemirovsky's gem-like early novellas--David Golder, The Ball, Snow in Autumn, and The Courilof Affair--with all the trimmings: a shrewd introduction by Claire Messud (The Emperor's Children) and a detailed chronology of the author's life and times. These first novellas demonstrate Némirovsky's genius for exposing an individual's virtues and flaws, much like a jeweler examining a diamond under a loupe. Potentially one-dimensional characters such as a greedy businessman or a spiteful teenager emerge from these stories as multi-faceted figures whose questionable beliefs and actions compel us to re-examine our own. Don't miss these short, but potent tales. --Lauren Nemroff --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Through the 1920s and '30s Russian-Jewish émigré Némirovsky, author of the recently rediscovered and internationally bestselling Suite Française, was a popular and critically acclaimed novelist in her adopted France. These four short early novels reveal her clear-eyed view into the deeply compromised human heart. David Golder, her third novel and the only one in the volume previously available in English, is saturated with the despairing mood of its title character, an embittered Jewish business- and family man in ill health, left after the suicide of his bankrupt partner to question the value of the great petroleum fortune he has amassed. The Courilof Affair is narrated by Léon M., a dying Russian revolutionary: he recounts his relationship with Valerian Courilof, the minister of education in imperial Russia. Léon grew to like the decrepit, politically ruined Courilof, even as he was ordered to kill him. The Ball is a psychologically acute account of the relationship between a narcissistic French mother—married to her former boss, a rich German Jew—and their enraged adolescent daughter, Antoinette; the similarly brief Snow in Autumn is a tender portrait of an old, devoted Russian nanny who cannot adjust to life as an émigré in Paris. These four early works by Némirovsky reveal her impressive range, bitingly exact settings and insight into profoundly flawed and compromised characters. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The paper is heavy weight - not glossy - not harsh. The ribbon bookmark reminds me of days when books were made this way ... I enjoyed reading this book because of the quality of the construction .... now on to the inside.
Nemirovsky has a way of developing the ghosts of one's past. Regardless of how well her characters do in life there seem to be parts of their beginnings that they cannot shed ... a genetic tattoo, a social ingraining that continues to come through regardless of how they change over the years.
I felt the pain of David Golder; I wanted to throw Mrs. Kampf to the dogs and delighted in the vision of little pieces of paper floating down the river; I could feel the heat of the wood burning stove and the cold of the chilling Russian wind in Snow in Autumn. Brilliantly written in simple language, if you are looking for paperback literature - this is NOT the book to read.
I am hypnotized by Nemirovsky's work and hope that you are too!
"David Golder" was the novel that first established Nemirovsky's reputation in France when it was published in 1929. It is the tale of a wealthy old Jewish man, who, now that he is nearing the end of his life, is coming to terms with the greed of the world around him. He begins to realize that for all his wealth, he has always had to work to maintain a standard of living for his wife and daughter and those they entertain. Yet it has never made him happy. Before he dies, David Golder must examine his life and see if he has time to change course and fix the things he's done wrong.
Following "David Golder" are two short novellas, "The Ball" and "Snow in Autumn." "The Ball" is a quick paced gem of a story about the nouveau riche, a married couple who have raised themselves in society, but have not fully forgotten where they have come from. The mother is beastly towards her fourteen-year-old daughter and her servants, all as a means to show how far they have climbed in social stature. The mother wants to throw a ball to prove that they belong in society, but some unexpected and all too fitting events play out to put this family in its place. "Snow in Autumn" is about a wealthy Russian family forced to flee to France during the revolution, learning how to start over from nothing in a new world. It is told through the perspective of the children's nanny, who is unable to adapt to the new country and its strange weather. "Snow in Autumn" is a plaintive and sad story, its ending elegant and miserable at the same time.
The collection is capped off with "The Courilof Affair." This is another story of the Russian revolution, but told throw the eyes of a young revolutionary who has been trained to assassinate the Minister of Education. Masquerading as a doctor, the young assassin soon learns that everything is not cut and dried between who is good or bad and what is right or wrong. "The Courilof Affair" reads a bit like an espionage novel, and although its ending seems a bit rushed, it is an intriguing look at what people will do to fight for what they believe in.
The short novels collected in this edition are disparate stories, yet Nemirovsky deftly handled each as only a truly great writer could. It is a shame such a wonderful talent was destroyed, but Irene Nemirovsky's works still exist and are being rediscovered by a new generation. Besides the beauty of her words, the remarkable thing about Nemirovsky's works is their ability to speak to life in this present day. That is the mark of a master writer.