Irene Nemirovsky Biography


(eNotes Publishing)

Irene Nemirovsky lived a very successful but short life. She was born to a privileged Russian family but died a terrible and tragic death. It was on February 11, 1903, that Nemirovsky was born in Kiev to Leon Nemirovsky, who was a well-to-do banker. When the Russian Revolution of 1917 pushed that country into chaos, the Nemirovskys fled first to Norway and a year later to Paris. Much later, Nemirovsky attend the famed Sorbonne University and began writing when she graduated. At age twenty-three, she married Michel Epstein, who like her father was a banker. The couple had two children.

Nemirovsky was a very popular author in Europe. Her first novel, David Golder, which told the story of a Jewish banker who has trouble communicating with his daughter, became a big success in France in 1929 and was adapted to the screen. A year later, her second novel, Le Bal, another story about a mistreated daughter, was made into a play. Nemirovsky also wrote short stories and essays; she was well-known and praised for her work.

However, as anti-Semitism spread across Europe, Nemirovsky's husband lost his job and Nemirovsky was unable to publish any works after 1940, as the German Army was bearing down on France. She and her family went into hiding in a country village called Issy-l'Eveque. Although she was not able to publish, Nemirovsky continued to write in her journals. However, the form of the writing was more like novels, as the world would later find out when her Suite Française was published more than a half-century after she wrote it. On July 12, 1942, French police under the orders of the German occupiers deported Nemirovsky, because she was a Jew. She was taken to Auschwitz, the most infamous of the German concentration camps, where she died a month later of typhus. Her husband, who sent letters to the German officials begging for her release was later arrested as well and killed in a gas chamber. Their daughters, Denise and Elisabeth, survived. It was Denise who kept her mother's suitcase that contained the manuscript of what would become the novel Suite Française. Denise knew that the suitcase contained her mother's writing but for several decades, she was reluctant to read the manuscripts. Once she began reading them, however, she realized what a great writer her mother was and turned the work over to a publisher.