A French ca­nine hor­ror

The re­vived, ac­claimed se­quence of nov­els by French Holo­caust vic­tim Irène Némirovsky con­cludes in style

The Jewish Chronicle - - Arts&entertainment -

fa­ther’s thoughts as he re­signs him­self to years without his beloved daugh­ter.

Harry also now lives in Paris, en­gaged to the blonde, gen­tile daugh­ter of an es­tab­lished French bank­ing house. When he meets Ada again, the re­sults are dev­as­tat­ing for them all.

Némirovsky tells their love story with con­vinc­ing in­ten­sity, and draws the rest of her char­ac­ters with as­sured, cin­e­matic pre­ci­sion. De­luded, sharp Aunt Raissa, for ex­am­ple, is pos­sessed with am­bi­tion for her charm­ing but slut­tish daugh­ter, Lilla. As Ada prays (on her knees in the dust of the junk room) be­fore the party where she hopes to see Harry —“Please make him no­tice me” — and Lilla dabs her­self with scent in ex­pec­ta­tion of be­ing kissed, Raissa comes to fetch them “wear­ing a pur­ple silk dress and a paste but­ter­fly in red curls. She puffed up the sleeves of her dress, full of hope.”

Above all, there is Ben, the de­monic, schem­ing, re­sent­ful child of poverty. Tough, money-minded, pos­sessed of an an­guished ar­tic­u­lacy and a stoic, de­ter­mined sense of hu­mour.

This is the last of the Némirovsky re-is­sues trans­lated by San­dra Smith. It was orig­i­nally pub­lished in France in 1940 and shows the au­thor at the height of her pow­ers. As the action moves to­wards the date of the bloody con­tu­sions of the 1940s in Europe, our his­tor­i­cal knowl­edge of what was to come, com­bined with Némirovsky’s pre­science, her aware­ness of the dan­gers faced by Jews, cre­ates an­other, emo­tion­ally pow­er­ful di­men­sion. Anne Gar­vey is a free­lance re­viewer. A drama­ti­sa­tion, by Ellen Dry­den, of Irène Némirovsky’s novel ‘David Golder’, with David Suchet in the ti­tle role, will be broad­cast by BBC Ra­dio4 next spring

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