Monday, April 4, 2011

The Great Unread—March

Due to my recent travels, this March book challenge post was a bit delayed—much like the reading of my own challenge book, Suite Française, by Irène Némirovsky. Suite Française caught my eye in the window of BookShop West Portal when I first moved to San Francisco. At the time, I didn’t know the story of its publication (had I realized, it might have made it off my shelf a bit quicker).

Némirovsky, a Russian-Jewish immigrant, was a successful author in interwar France. When World War II broke out, she began a planned five-part epic depicting the stages of the war. Unfortunately, she had only completed two sections of the draft manuscript when she was arrested, deported, and sent to Auschwitz in 1942, where she died one month later. Thankfully, even though her husband soon suffered the same terrible fate, their two children were able to go into hiding and survived, carrying the manuscript with them. Only years later would they realize that the notebook scribblings, which they thought were a private journal, were complete enough to be published.

The work is an incredible fictional depiction of the June exodus and later German occupation of France. I can’t imagine how good this epic might have been had the author lived to finish the novel. It was one of the works that served as inspiration for Chris Bohjalian’s Skeletons at the Feast, which I read for my “War, What Is It Good For?” book salon last month, and makes a great companion piece to that novel. You can read my reviews of both at Goodreads.

I hope everyone is making good progress on this challenge. I’d love to hear about what you’ve been reading. As for April, I am still considering my selection. Either way, it is likely to be one of two books related to last year’s challenge: Shakespeare: The Tragedies (since, now that I’ve read Macbeth, I can finally appreciate this study analyzing his four major tragedies) or Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, which I began too late last year to finish before the challenge ended.


Radio Schmaydio said...

Unfinished works are on my mind lately with David Foster Wallace's The Pale King coming out.

Currently on my reading list, I've been tracking down books by Barbara Comyns who has been described as something like a British Flannery O'Connor. I think the element of Flannery they're keying off of is the dry, somewhat mordant humor with flashes of the fantastic.

She has a new edition of The Vet's Daughter out last year from NYRB Press. Other titles worth seeking out include Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead, Sisters by a River, and The Juniper Tree.

Welcome back!

ab said...

"the pale king" is also eyeing the top of my reading list. The great throngs of books that have been waiting "patiently" are outraged...but what can I do? I'm just one man. I really want to conquer "war and peace" (suppose I should find a word that conjures up peaceful images just to be fair and balanced). Sylvie, you, I have to say, are not helping. You keep coming up with more and more good books that I should be reading. For now I am dedicating the rest of the month to finish "Wolf Hall".

Sylvie said...

@RS: Having recently discovered Josephine Tey, I wonder how many other female British authors from the 40s and 50s are out there waiting to be re-discovered.

@AB: I will point out that your initial book challenge is to blame for almost all of this.

And I blame you both for making me contemplate adding a DFW to my list--never thought I'd say that!