Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française
Woman of Letters at the Museum of Jewish Heritage (opening September 24) tells the remarkable story of a writer driven to create, of a mother and her daughters, of memory and identity, of legacy and loss. A Russian-born Jewish author, Irène Némirovsky quickly rose to literary celebrity in her adopted France. But her fame and accomplishment, and even her conversion to Catholicism, were not enough to save her when war came; she was deported to Auschwitz in 1942. Among the few items that she left behind was a valise that contained a leather notebook. Haunted by painful memories, her daughters avoided opening it until Denise read it more than fifty years after their mother’s death. She discovered not a diary, but a major literary work: the first two parts of an unfinished five-part novel, Suite Française. The exhibition illustrates Némirovsky’s life and her extraordinary literary gift to the world with stunning and heartbreaking artifacts, including the original manuscript and the valise, never before exhibited.