Sunday, August 3, 2008

Week 1~Storm in June~DQ

Main Characters
The Péricands
Charlotte Péricand
The Elder Monsieur Péricand
Philippe Péricand
Hubert Péricand
Corte
Gabriel Corte
The Michauds
Jean-Marie Michaud
The Villagers
Lucile Angellier
Madame Angellier
Madeleine Sabarie
Benoît Sabarie
The Viscountess
The Germans
Lieutenant Bruno von Falk
Kurt Bonnet

Némirovsky wrote this book in the years between 1940 and 1942. She recorded for posterity what she saw around her – the events and people’s reactions to them. This novel is a close-range, eyewitness account of war. Némirovsky explores the kinds of decisions people make in a time of war that demonstrate their character. She does this with a heightened understanding of human behavior and an instinctively literary mind that utilizes some techniques and methods that will be used only years after she is gone.

It is 1940 and the Germans are poised to enter Paris but have not yet arrived. In anticipation of the Germans’ arrival, the people of Paris pack up to leave. There is no thought of staying, no thought of setting up a defense. Panic and chaos is the order of the day. Némirovsky paints a satiric and sad portrait of the Parisians, as they step all over themselves and others in their attempt to escape the unimaginable – the destruction of their beloved Paris: an event that never happened.

1. It takes a long time for historians and writers to come objectively to terms with a catastrophic historical event, yet Némirovsky presents just that – an on-the-spot description and interpretation of how the French behaved in the years between 1940 and 1942.

Has Némirovsky presented a fair picture? Has she written a journalistic account of the time or a story of fiction? How have her own personal experiences biased her writing? Is this novel a contribution to the library of wartime literature?

2. Suite Française is an unfinished work, and as such it may be criticized as unpolished, especially when held up to the measure of other classic novels written in the past and present century accounting for the same time and events.

Consider in your reading so far whether or not you consider what Irène Némirovsky has written to be a tragically classic story or if she is merely a tragic figure in her own story.

3. In, Storm in June, Némirovsky explores the nature of families who escape Paris at the start of the invasion – the Péricand family, the writer Corte and his mistress, the Michauds, and some other individuals. These smaller groups, in turn, represent the thousands of people who found themselves in a state of upheaval that June of 1940. Once she sets her characters on the road, she steps back and allows them to act on their own – for better, in just a few instances, or for worse, in many cases.

a. Do you find yourself identifying with any of the actions or behaviors of these main payers in the beginning of the first raid and initial invasion of Paris?

b. If so who?

c. If not how do you think you would have reacted?

7 comments:

Cori, Brian and Olivia said...

Némirovsky wrote this book in the years between 1940 and 1942. She
recorded for posterity what she saw around her – the events and people’s reactions to them. This novel is a close-range, eyewitness account of war. Némirovsky explores the kinds of decisions people make in a time of war that demonstrate their character. She does this with a heightened understanding of human behavior and an instinctively literary mind that utilizes some techniques and methods that will be used only years after she is gone.

I wonder what these techniques and methods are...would it be the telling of the same story from so many different points of view? We read stories that are written this way so often now. Perhaps this technique was not used at the time this novel was written.

MaryZorro

Zorro said...

Somehow I was signed on in my daughter's account when I posted the last comment!
MaryZorro

Marylyn S said...

*****Spoiler******
Do not read this if you have not finished "Storm in June".

Némirovsky’s style is that she does not reshape the facts to make them appear more real. Her goal is to captures the essence of the chaos and terror of the Parisians who flee in the hope of outrunning the expected brutality of the soon-to-arrive German army as it is happening. Then she turns around and depicts the fearsome occupiers as young, innocent, and somewhat carefree men who probably never wanted to be soldiers in the first place. Némirovsky is not contradictory; she simply records the human nature around her.

The images and ideas Némirovsky uses that do not emerge into thought, for fiction and non-fiction alike for many years are this very notion of writing things just as they are when they are happening.

o First, she alludes to the idea of the “banality of evil.” The term
was coined by philosopher Hannah Arendt in her report on the
1963 trial of war criminal Adolph Eichmann. Her book is titled: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. In an eerie preview of what is to come, Bruno denies responsibility for his actions when he claims that he and his colleagues are simply soldiers following orders.

o Secondly, the scene depicting Father Philippe’s death is every bit as gruesome as William Golding’s classic novel, Lord of the Flies, which was not written until 1954. It seems as though
Némirovsky already knew the darkness that lurked in people’s
Hearts.

Marylyn

Ellen D. said...

1. I think it is a fair picture of what was happening. Some of the descriptions were so unexpected, but so absolutely true that they could only have been recorded by an eye witness. Details even a highly informed/researched writer would not be able to assimilate. One that sticks in my mind is the sound of shops closing in the middle of the day. I remember thinking that Alan Furst, who writes very realistic feeling novels about WW2 Europe, must have found this novel a treasure trove. I wonder how many aha moments he had reading this. Her own experiences must have colored her writing, but whose doesn't? She was writing this as a novel, right?

Maybe it is the translator, but so far the book does not feel unfinished as in polished. There may be loose ends/unfinished story lines by the end.

Which figure do you think is most reflective of her experience?

Weird, but since you asked, I identify with Mme. Pericand if anyone...having children I can relate to her circumstances. And **spoiler follows** I could not meaning to forget the Elder Monsieur Pericand if an opportunity came to save my children!!!

Shirley said...

I'll try again to leave a post. I had a fairly long one and I don't know if it was because I then tried to go back or what, but my comment doesn't show now.

1. This novel definitely contributes to the library of wartime literature. Nemirovsky's first hand experience with the events makes this fictionalized account of the German invasion of France even more realistic.

2. Even though we know the tragic ending to the book's author before we begin, the richness of the characters and the fact that the author doesn't know how it will end prevents the book from being as tragic as it could otherwise have been.

3. Because of Charlotte Pericand's determination to protect her children, I probably identify most with her. However, her view of the lower classes is disturbing. Such arrogance and greed are prime contributors to the economic downfall the United States is now experiencing for all but the wealthy.

Elizabeth Sinnreich said...

I recently read your post about Irène Némirovsky and wanted to let you know about an exciting new exhibition about her life, work, and legacy that will open on September 24, 2008 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage —A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City. Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française, which will run through the middle of March, will include powerful rare artifacts — the actual handwritten manuscript for Suite Française, the valise in which it was found, and many personal papers and family photos. The majority of these documents and artifacts have never been outside of France. For fans of her work, this exhibition is an opportunity to really “get to know” Irene. And for those who can’t visit, there will be a special website that will live on the Museum’s site www.mjhnyc.org.
The Museum will host several public programs over the course of the exhibition’s run that will put Némirovsky’s work and life into historical and literary context. Book clubs and groups are invited to the Museum for tours and discussions in the exhibition’s adjacent Salon (by appointment). It is the Museum’s hope that the exhibit will engage visitors and promote dialogue about this extraordinary writer and the complex time in which she lived and died. To book a group tour, please contact Tracy Bradshaw at 646.437.4304 or tbradshaw@mjhnyc.org. Please visit our website at www.mjhnyc.org for up-to-date information about upcoming public programs or to join our e-bulletin list.
Thanks for sharing this info with your readers. Let me know if you need any more.

-Elizabeth Sinnreich (executiveintern@mjhnyc.org)

m said...

I am just about to start reading Chapter 28, and at this point I am praying soon Nemirovsky will be able to share something, anything that may redeem my opinion of the characters she has chosen to write about.

The murder of Father Philippe by the boys was horrific!

So far there is not one character I can relate to, not even Madame Pericand who like myself is a mother. I can not fathom forgetting my father in law.

m