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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

David Golder - The Ball
Snow in Autumn - The Courilof Affair

[Everyman's Library collection]

Irène Némirovsky

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase David Golder - The Ball - Snow in Autumn - The Courilof Affair

Title: David Golder, The Ball, Snow in Autumn, The Courilof Affair
Author: Irène Némirovsky
Genre: Fiction
Written: (Eng. 2008)
Length: 372 pages
Original in: French
Availability: David Golder, The Ball, Snow in Autumn, The Courilof Affair - US
David Golder, The Ball, Snow in Autumn, The Courilof Affair - UK
David Golder, The Ball, Snow in Autumn, The Courilof Affair - Canada

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Our Assessment:

A- : interesting variety, good show of her talents

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Haaretz . 13/2/2008 Gerald Sorin
The Nation . 21/4/2008 Alice Kaplan
The New Republic . 30/1/2008 Ruth Franklin
The NY Rev. of Books . 20/11/2008 J.M.Coetzee
The NY Times Book Rev. . 9/3/2008 Thomas Mallon
Salon . 6/2/2008 Allen Barra

  From the Reviews:
  • "Here is an opportunity to see the growth of the author's talent, from the fledgling coarseness of David Golder (1929) through the more fully realized The Courilof Affair (1933), a book that gives some indication of the genius readers encountered in Suite française " - Gerald Sorin, Haaretz

  • "In an American context, the decision to include these works in the Everyman's Library edition marks the strong desire to place Némirovsky's fiction on a select shelf of the classics alongside the works of Ford Madox Ford and Cormac McCarthy." - Alice Kaplan, The Nation

  • "Claire Messud provides a perceptive introduction; Sandra Smith's translations are of the highest quality, though the decision to give Russian names in their French forms is puzzling: Pobiedonostsef, Tcheka instead of Pobedonostsev, Cheka." - J.M. Coetzee, The New York Review of Books

  • "Claire Messud’s graceful introduction supplements the chance this collection provides to see Némirovsky’s career at least somewhat removed from the disaster that engulfed her. These short fictions may often be punctuated with the rhetorical shrugs of Russian fatalism, but this is really just a tic of self-indulgence the young Némirovsky gives to her creations. What interests her most in characters like Golder and Courilof is tenacity, a desire for survival she can appreciate, as yet, only instinctively." - Thomas Mallon, The New York Times Book Review

  • "The four novellas in the David Golder collection are more interesting from a sociopolitical perspective than an aesthetic one." - Allen Barra, Salon

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       David Golder was translated into English shortly after it originally appeared in French, one of several of Némirovsky's books to appear in English decades ago, but it was only with the publication of the previously unknown Suite Française (2004, Eng. 2006) that the author has been rediscovered. Sandra Smith has retranslated David Golder, and it is that version that was published as a separate volume in the UK in 2007 and is now available, together with three more of Némirovsky's works that have previously been unavailable in English, in this Everyman's Library edition. (The Courilof Affair will also appear as a stand-alone volume in the UK, while The Ball and Snow in Autumn have been published there in one volume, as Le Bal.)
       The entire collection is less than four-hundred pages long, and the selection affords a good overview of the author and her talents. The uncomfortable David Golder is the most sustained (and longest) effort, while The Courilof Affair -- despite some rather far-fetched elements -- offers the most engaging story. The two considerably shorter pieces also show off different sides of Némirovsky: Snow in Autumn is the most tempered of the lot -- though even here she's ruthless when she feels she needs to be -- while The Ball packs the biggest punch in its horrific mother-daughter relationship. In all of them Némirovsky is particularly good in her use of nostalgia -- which works nicely along with her very dark opinion of almost all of humanity. There are laughs here, too, but of the most bitter sort: there's little that makes for pleasant reading, but it is certainly compelling.
       The Everyman's Library edition includes a useful chronology, helping to place the author and her work, and there's also a (fairly brief) Introduction by Claire Messud. Messud does introduce the author and these works, but she doesn't really get too far. The main points -- Némirovsky as: once popular, largely forgotten, international sensation (Suite Française), possibly anti-Semitic -- are addressed, but too hurriedly to provide much insight or to really engage with the issues. As Messud notes, it's hard to do all of these justice, as little was simply black or white, but certainly the class-issues, as well as émigré life in France in the 1920s could have been discussed more fully, especially with respect to these four works.
       Messud also thinks The Ball is: "the slightest of all these efforts", but does Némirovsky no favours by revealing the entire plot. Admittedly, any reader who has read anything about the book or collection will likely have heard what happens, but it still doesn't seem necessary to spell it out so clearly in an introduction (or a review).
       Offering four representative works by Némirovsky in a single volume (four works which are spread over three volumes by the British publishers, and four by the French), the Everyman's Library edition is a handy and worthwhile collection. It may not seem to show Némirovsky off to best advantage as a person, but it does show what the talented writer was capable of. And it gives reason to look forward to future translations of the many other works that are still (or again) out of reach.

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David Golder, The Ball, Snow in Autumn, The Courilof Affair: Reviews: Irène Némirovsky: Other books by Irene Nemirovsky under review: Books about Irène Némirovsky under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Irène Némirovsky was born in Russia in 1903. Her family moved to France, where she became a successful and popular author in the 1930s. She died in Auschwitz in 1942.

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