PUBLISHED AS LEAD OPINION PEĆAT [SERBIA] AND BRITIĆ [UNITED KINGDOM] ON FEBRUARY 12, 2017
While a guest on Long Island’s North Fork I casually picked up Suite Française, a novel by Irène Némirovsky, my hostess’s current read, a paperback with a handsome Humphrey Bogart-Casablanca flavored World War II cover that had caught my eye.
As the back page of the dust jacket advertises Suite Française, like Casablanca, made it to silver screen complete with strafing Messerschmitt fighter planes, dashing Wehrmacht officers in dress uniforms, a soupçon of the Résistance to be and the tragedy of the loss of love in time of war, playing out in the beautiful, bucolic, romantic country side of Normandy.
What caught my attention was that the novel, a romance of some sort, “chick lit” if you will, had an Appendix. Not one, but two. I was reading the Appendix - Némirovsky’s handwritten notes and musings while writing the book - at page 177 when the very first paragraph on the page caught my eye:
“The French grew tired of the Republic, as if she were an old wife. For them, the dictatorship was a brief affair, adultery. But they intended to cheat on their wife, not to kill her. Now they realize she’s dead. Their Republic. Their freedom. They’re mourning her.”
I thought of that day’s dinner conversation, about the present state of affairs with Donald Trump the President of these United States. In my mind, I altered Ms. Némirovsky’s paragraph to read:
“Americans grew tired of democracy, as if she were an old wife. For them, the Trump Presidency was a brief affair, adultery. But they intended to cheat on their wife, not to kill her. Now they realize that she’s dead. Their democracy. Their freedom. They’re mourning her.”
Who was Irène Némirovsky and what did she write about. I googled her name and learned that she was a novelist of “Ukrainian Jewish origin born in Kiev, Ukraine … [who] lived more than half her life [1903 – 1942] in France … but was denied French citizenship. Arrested as a Jew under the racial laws … she died at Auschwitz at the age of 39 … [and is] best known for the posthumously published Suite Française.”
Némirovsky was writing of Vichy France, the death of the Third Republic and what led to that war and defeat. But she well could be writing of the United States today for towards the end of that page, while speaking of the causes of the war and defeat of the republic – read democracy – she opined:
“More and more, the world is becoming divided into the haves and the have-nots. The first don’t want to give anything up and the second want to take everything. Who will win?”
Some 75 years after her murder at Auschwitz I am living in a world little changed and asking the same question.