The Némirovsky Question: The Life, Death, and Legacy of a Jewish Writer in Twentieth-Century France


Product Details

Yale University Press
Publish Date
6.1 X 1.0 X 9.3 inches | 1.45 pounds
BISAC Categories:

Earn by promoting books

Earn money by sharing your favorite books through our Affiliate program.

Become an affiliate

About the Author

Susan Rubin Suleiman is the C. Douglas Dillon Research Professor of the Civilization of France and research professor of comparative literature at Harvard. Her many books include Crises of Memory and the Second World War, Risking Who One Is: Encounters with Contemporary Art and Literature, and the memoir Budapest Diary: In Search of the Motherbook.


"[A] measured, compelling new book. . . . Rather than bluntly judge, Ms. Suleiman makes us see Némirovsky as a gifted woman situated in a particular historical epoch, carefully analyzing her writings as a product of those times, and clarifying, without excusing, Némirovsky's most discomforting passages."--Diane Cole, Wall Street Journal
"Suleiman had produced a work that is a model of painstaking research, historical expertise, nuanced analysis and human intelligence."--Peter Kemp, Sunday Times
"An intimate, perceptive portrait of a complex woman and her times. A useful biographical portrait of an intriguing writer."--Kirkus Reviews
"Suleiman offers a personal, poignant, and perceptive account of what she rightly calls the lingering 'Némirovsky question.' By this, Suleiman means the many questions which revolve around the dark star of Némirovsky's relationship to Judaism, other Jews, and her own Jewish background. The author handles this complicated subject . . . with lightly worn erudition and deeply felt compassion. . . . With her own knack for nuance, Suleiman captures the quality that sets Némirovsky apart, despite or perhaps because of her flaws: as a writer, she is attachant. We read and treasure her--we are attached to her--because, at her best, she brilliantly conveys the entangled state of our ties with others and with our own selves."--Robert Zaretsky, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Stimulated by her deep and subtle understanding of the French cultural landscape between the world wars and as stubbornly determined as a detective, [Suleiman] applied herself, through a close reading of Némirovsky's work, to examining the experience of this Jewish novelist, Russian-born but French-speaking, on the eve of World War II. . . . Suleiman's exceptional understanding of both the work and the time led her to echo Primo Levi's refusal to pass peremptory judgment on people who find themselves in exceptionally difficult situations: 'We should beware of the error of judging eras and places according to the prevailing standards of the here and now.'"--Anka Muhlstein, New York Review of Books
"Almost in the manner of a conversationalist, Suleiman draws upon the breadth of her literary knowledge and extensive research."--Meaghan Emery, French Review

"The Némirovsky Question traces the fascinating and complicated saga of the writer Irène Némirovsky against the rich backdrop of French literary culture, émigré culture, and secular Jewish culture. Suleiman enters brilliantly into the debate over Némirovsky's suppposed 'self-hatred, ' adding nuance, complexity, context. She not only complicates the way we view Némirovsky but also expands our understanding of the lives, choices, and cultures of secular and secularizing Jews in Europe and North America in the twentieth century. é is a keenly intelligent book--clear, moving, and at moments, passionate. It should fly off the shelves."--Sara R. Horowitz, York University

"The Némirovsky Question is a rare kind of book that combines history, biography and literary commentary to illuminate a controversial figure. It comes full circle with Suleiman's very first book on the ideological novel and shares qualities that mark all of her works: a gift for clear argument, convincing reading, and wisdom--about life and literature. What a gripping and intelligent book! I learned a great deal about subjects and texts I have been studying for many years."--Alice Kaplan, Yale University
"In this brilliant and moving book, Susan Rubin Suleiman examines the troubling charge that Irène Némirovksy, the acclaimed author of Suite Française, was a 'self-hating Jew.' Her conclusion is that Némirovsky became a leading French novelist in the inter-war years despite mounting anti-Semitism, yet it was a Russian-born Jew that she died in Auschwitz in 1942."--Alan Riding, author of And The Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris
"Novelist Irène Némirovsky acknowledged how she sought out 'cruelly tirelessly, the secrets beneath sad faces and dark skies' with particular attention to the grimmer side of pre-World War French Jewish life. Susan Rubin Suleiman sees this as a prolegomenon to Némirovsky's long forgotten, now rediscovered, still-controversial fictional universe in this impassioned, keenly intelligent book."--Steven J. Zipperstein, Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History, Stanford University