LITT - Suite Française - Irène Némirovsky

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Suite française is the title of a planned sequence of five novels by Irène Némirovsky, a French writer of Ukrainian-Jewish origin. In July 1942, having just completed the first two of the series, Némirovsky was arrested as a Jew and then murdered at Auschwitz. The notebook containing the two novels was preserved by her daughters but not examined until 1998. They were published in a single volume entitled Suite française in 2004.

 The first novel, Tempête en juin (Storm in June), depicts the flight of citizens from Paris in the hours preceding the German advance and in the days following it. The narrative follows several groups of characters who are impelled to flee from Paris. As transport and distribution collapse under German bombardment, all have to change their plans, and nearly all lose the veneer of civilization.

 The second novel, Dolce (Sweet), shows life in a small French country town, Bussy (in the suburbs of Paris) and its neighboring farms, in the first months of the German occupation. This time seems sweetly peaceful, but there is no doubt over the balance of power. The Germans get whatever they ask for; official notices promise the death penalty for those who disobey their regulations, and French collaborators make their own settlement with their German overlords.

Prix Renaudot 2004

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