Wednesday, 12 February 2014

First Pictures. Suite Française....

Finding out the beautifully written "Suite Française" was becoming a movie, with Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn) and Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone) was both exciting and terrifying. The book is written with such care and detail that I would hate to see it spoiled into a badly done film. However, cinematically speaking it could be amazing. The rich language of the novel allows for plenty of visual material to work with and it is the 1940s, it cannot look bad. 

Costume designer responsible is Michael O'Connor (he won an Oscar for The Dutchess). There is no specific information on the costumes yet but I am expecting plenty of uniforms, both French and German, flower patterns and natural fabrics like cotton, linnen and wool. 

As France Burned
Review by PAUL GRAY
Published: April 9, 2006. The New York Times

THIS stunning book contains two narratives, one fictional and the other a fragmentary, factual account of how the fiction came into being. "Suite Française" itself consists of two novellas portraying life in France from June 4, 1940, as German forces prepare to invade Paris, through July 1, 1941, when some of Hitler's occupying troops leave France to join the assault on the Soviet Union. At the end of the volume, a series of appendices and a biographical sketch provide, among other things, information about the author of the novellas. Born in Ukraine, Irène Némirovsky had lived in France since 1919 and had established herself in her adopted country's literary community, publishing nine novels and a biography of Chekhov. She composed "Suite Française" in the village of Issy-l'Evêque, where she, her husband and two young daughters had settled after fleeing Paris. On July 13, 1942, French policemen, enforcing the German race laws, arrested Némirovsky as "a stateless person of Jewish descent." She was transported to Auschwitz, where she died in the infirmary on Aug. 17.

The date of Némirovsky's death induces disbelief. It means, it can only mean, that she wrote the exquisitely shaped and balanced fiction of "Suite Française" almost contemporaneously with the events that inspired them, and everyone knows such a thing cannot be done. We can now see that Némirovsky achieved just such coherence and irony with an ex post facto view of, at most, a few months. Nobody knew about the existance of "Suite Française" at the time , including Némirovsky's elder daughter, Denise, who saved the leatherbound notebook her mother had left behind but refused to read it, fearing it would simply renew old pains. (Her father, Michel Epstein, was sent to Auschwitz several months after her mother and was consigned immediately to the gas chamber.) Not until the late 1990's did Denise examine what her mother had written and discover, instead of a diary or journal, two complete novellas written in a microscopic hand, evidently to save scarce paper. Denise abandoned her plan to give the notebook to a French institute preserving personal documents from the war years and instead sent it to a publisher. "Suite Française" appeared in France in 2004 and became a best seller.

We now know what happened. Némirovsky lost her life in what she foresaw as a life in "captivity". The improbable survival of her two novellas is a cause for celebration and also for grief at another reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust. She wrote what may be the first work of fiction about what we now call World War II. She also wrote, for all to read at last, some of the greatest, most humane and incisive fiction that conflict has produced.


P.D. Read the full article here

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