Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Suite francaise

I awake in the pre-dawn hours, befuddled and anxious.

Will our family have enough to eat? I wonder.

Will we reach Tours? Will it be safe when we get there?


Then, slowly I awake. I rub my eyes and realize it is 2011. I am safe in my comfortable American bed. Breakfast awaits.


As I gaze sleepily around the room, I remember that I am reading, and totally absorbed by, Suite française, by Irène Némirovsky.


Published in 2006, it's one of those books I'd been "meaning to read" and couldn't decide whether to read it in French or English. If it's one of those books that you have been "meaning to read," please do so. I'm reading the English edition, exquisitely translated by Sandra Smith.


Universal Studios apparently bought the movie rights in 2006. I don't usually clamor for a great novel's film version, but this is one that I can't wait to see.


It is also one of those books that I want to know the ending of but that I don't ever want to end.


Have you read it?

12 comments:

Deja Pseu said...

Read this book last year and loved it! The characters and stories were really engaging.

Rick said...

Read the book a number of years ago. Very good. Have you read, "Sarah's Key" by Tatiana de Rosnay? If not check it out....

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Deja Pseu, I totally agree, and I'm only halfway through the novel.

Rick, Thanks for the recommendation. A friend lent me "Sarah's Key" but I had to return it when moving before having the chance to read it. I look forward to reading it!

I am so drawn to this period in French history, having older friends --and college professors -- who lived through it. Paris during the war. The Exodus.

And having read Janet Flanner's "Paris was Yesterday" trilogy, columns from the New Yorker, which got me started in the first place.

Anne said...

Yes! It's on my list of recommended books for Francophiles:

http://justanotheramericaninparis.blogspot.com/2009/08/recommended-reading.html

Sarah's Key is awesome too although part of the emotional power of Suite Francaise is knowing that it was written contemporaneously with the events depicted.

Anonymous said...

This translation isn't the best, I'm afraid-- I compared the French and English in preparation for a translation exam, and found entire sentences just left out of the English.

Autolycus said...

Yes, I read it in French, and I was enthralled. It has the additional interest of having been written more or less contemporaneously, so with the minimum of historical hindsight, which makes it all the more poignant - we know what she seems not to have anticipated.

Juliana Gregor said...

I am about to read this book as well! I do have to admit that I do find some characters and actions a bit stereotypical. Especially gender clichés are stressed quite heavily. I am reading the Spanish translation though-would be interesting to read the original of course. And the circumstances under which this book what written are of course shocking.

Elizabeth said...

I read Suite Francaise in Paris in the spring of 09--a beautiful 6 month period in which I was on a university exchange with Paris 3, while my husband was at Paris X (we had our 2 daughters with us). This has to be the best way to read this novel. I also read Fire in the Blood; you are now making me want to read the original French (which I would struggle through!). That semester I read a lot of fiction in English that happened to be in the apartment I was renting, and some of it also concerned WWII--The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford. You are bringing the whole thing back for me right now!

Amy said...

Thanks to you, Polly, and to the other commenters here for the great reading suggestions. I'm almost fresh out of France/French-related books, and I need to keep my inspiration up while I'm writing my own!

Rick said...

Another interesting book is "Paris Under Water - How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910," by Jeffrey H. Jackson.

Sally said...

I'm just reading another of Irene Nemirovsky's books - Jezebel (in translation) - it portrays a character and period that are so intriguing! Her book of short stories - Dimanche and other stories - does the same - somehow, her "Russian-ness" comes through, I think.

Margaret said...

I read it in English, and I have to say that I was surprised by how readable the translation was. I think with translation there's a tough judgement call to be made between sticking to the author's intent to the detriment of the flow of the English version, and making a book that a reader can enjoy. I often hate translations because they are just so badly written. I would tend to vote for a well-written if inaccurate translation, myself, because it's more enjoyable. What a good book though - the history of it lends it such poignancy. I should go back and read it again - and this time in French, so as not to miss anything...

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