Back to 'Suite Francaise', Irene Nemirovsky's posthumous work (VIntage books has another novel 'Fire in the blood' coming soon, a newly discovered novel by the author). The edition includes the two novellas and are followed by an impressive set of appendixes. These are opened with the handwritten notes that formed the novel (first picture above). Then we have Irene's ideas of the novel, how she wanted it to develop, what she wanted to highlight, and several ideas on the genre. Her admiration for Russian writers is evident and she mentions repeatedly Anna Karenina and War and Peace. She insists on describing the conflicts in an olbique way: "Instead of describing the death of the hostages, it's the party at the Opera House I must show". Her ambitions were high, too: "Try to create as much as possible: things, debates... that will interest people in 1952 or 2052". The second appendix is the gripping correspondence between Irene's husband, her editor, some friends. When Irene is taken by the police, her husband keeps on trying to find out were she is. It is painful and horrendous to read, since we know that she has died in Auschwitz, and Michel Epstein (Irene's husband) goes as far as to send a letter to the German Ambassador, Otto Abetz, were he explains: "My wife's grandparents, as well as my own, were Jewish; our parents practised no religion; as for us, we are Catholic and so are our children who were born in Paris and are French... Despite being of Jewish descente, [Irene] has no sympathy whatsoever-all her books prove this-either for Judaism or the Bolshevik regime" (404). Michel's letter drew some attention and he was imprisoned at Creusot, then taken to Drancy. Then he was deported to Auschwitz and sent immediately to the gas chamber. As for Irene, she was registered at the extermination camp at Birkenau, and was so weak that she was sent to the Review, "the infirmary at Auschwitz where prisoners who were too ill to work were confined in atrocious conditions. The SS would periodically pile them into trucks and take them to the gas chambers".
A beautiful paragraph from Irene's notes in the first appendix:
"The pine trees all around me. I am sitting on my blue cardigan in the middle of an ocean of leaves, wet and rotting from last night's storm as if I were on a raft, my legs tucked under me! In my bag, I have put Volume II of Anna Karenina, the diary of K.M. and an orange. My friends the bumblebees, delightful insects, seem pleased with themselves and their buzzing is profound and grave. I like low, serious tones on voices and in nature. The shrill 'chirp, chirp' of the small birds in the trees grates on me... In a moment or so I will try to find the hidden lake" (388).