The few facts that Nathalie Sarraute (sah-ROHT) relinquished about her life were as sparse and unembellished as her prose. She was born on July 18, 1900, in Ivanovo-Voznessensk, Russia. Her parents, Ilya Tcherniak and Paulina Chatounowski, had met while studying in Geneva to avoid the harassment that prevented Jewish students from attending Russian universities under Nicholas II. After her father obtained a doctorate in chemistry, they returned to Russia, where he opened a textile factory.
When she was two years old, her parents divorced. Sarraute lived with her mother in Paris for most of her early years and spent summers with her father in Russia. She spoke French from early childhood. Her mother remarried several years later and moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, where she collaborated on a literary review and published fiction under the masculine pseudonym of Vichrowski. From a young age, Sarraute had a desire to write that was enhanced by her acquaintance with writers and scholars. At age seven she timidly presented her first novel to a writer friend of her mother. His review, that she should learn to spell before she wrote novels, kept her from writing for almost thirty years.
Sarraute moved with her father, who had also remarried, back to Paris in 1910. As a result of her frequent travel between France, Switzerland, and Russia, Sarraute became fluent in Russian and French at an early age. She was a bright student who consistently earned high marks and was encouraged to pursue her own career by her father. She was reared in a community of Russian émigré intellectuals who fostered her love of music, languages, and literature....
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