Sunday, May 11, 2008
Nemirovsky's Spy Novel
Irène Némirovsky was born in Kiev in 1903 into a wealthy banking family and emigrated to France during the Russian Revolution. After attending the Sorbonne in Paris, she began to write and swiftly achieved success with DAVID GOLDER, which was followed by more than a dozen other books. Throughout her lifetime she published widely in French newspapers and literary journals. She died in Auschwitz in 1942. More than sixty years later, SUITE FRANCAISE was published posthumously.
Now the stalwart Everyman's Library is publishing four of her shorter novels in one handsome volume, a gorgeous hardcover complete with a gold cord bookmark. And the especially good news for lovers of crime fiction is that one of them, THE COURILOF AFFAIR, is a classic Conradian (or Dostoyevskian) spy novel. It's the story of a Russian revolutionary, Leon M., living out his last days in Nice, first meeting in the 1930s a man who jogs his memory and then writing in longhand about his relationship with Valerian Courilof, the minister of education in imperial Russia. Léon grew to like the decrepit, politically ruined Courilof, even as he was ordered to kill him.