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