Fire in the Blood

Fire in the Blood

Book - 2007
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Random House, Inc.
Here is a missing piece of the remarkable posthumous legacy of Irène Némirovsky, author of the internationally acclaimed Suite Française.

Written in 1941, the manuscript of Fire in the Blood was entrusted in pieces to family and a friend when the author was sent to her death at Auschwitz. The novel—only now assembled in its entirety—teems with the intertwined lives of an insular French village in the years before the war, when “peace” was less important as a political state than as a coveted personal condition: the untroubled pinnacle of happiness.

At the center of the tale is Silvio: in his younger years he fled the boredom of the village and made a life of travel and adventure. Now he’s returned, living in a farmer’s hovel in the middle of the woods, and, much to his family’s chagrin, perfectly content with his solitude.

But when he attends the wedding of his favorite young cousin—"she has the thing that, when I was young, I used to value most in women: she has fire"—Silvio begins to be drawn back into the complicated life of this small town. As his narration unfolds, we are given an intimate picture of the loves and infidelities, the scandals, the youthful ardor and regrets of age that tie Silvio to the long-guarded secrets of the past.

Némirovsky wrote with a crystalline understanding of the pretensions and protections of society, and of the varied workings of the human heart, in language as evocative of a vanished era as of the emotional and moral ambiguities in her characters’ lives. All of which was evident in Suite Française—and abundantly evident again in this powerful, passionate novel.

A Note on the Text

Until recently, only a partial text of Fire in the Blood was thought to exist, typed up by Irène Némirovsky’s husband, Michel Epstein, to whom she often passed her manuscripts for this purpose. However, Michel's typing breaks off at the words 'I felt so old' (see p. 37), leaving the novel unfinished.

Did Michel stop typing when Irène was arrested and deported to Auschwitz on 13 July 1942? Or perhaps even earlier in 1942, when she could no longer find a way to get her novels and short stories published? As readers will learn from the Preface to the French edition of this novel found at the back of the book, it is likely that Némirovsky was still working on Fire in the Blood in 1942. We know this thanks to the work of Olivier Philipponnat and Patrick Lienhardt, who were commissioned to write a biography of Némirovsky, and who began extensive research into her archive. Two pages of the original manuscript were found to have been in the suitcase that Némirovsky's daughter, Denise Epstein, carried with her from Issy-l'Évêque when she and her sister, Elisabeth, fled after their mother's arrest, and which contained Némirovsky’s great lost novel Suite Française. And as Philipponnat and Lienhardt trawled the Némirovsky archive at the Institut Mémoires de l'édition contemporaine (IMEC), they discovered, amidst papers given by Némirovsky for safe-keeping to her editor and family friend in the spring of 1942, the rest of the missing manuscript: thirty tightly packed pages of handwriting, with very few crossings out, the beginning of which corresponded to Michel’s typed version.

It is an extraordinary collection of papers, which adds to our understanding of Némirovsky’s oeuvre. As well as the manuscript of Fire in the Blood, it contains Némirovsky’s working notebooks dating back to 1933, successive versions of several of her novels including David Golder as well as outlines for Captivité, the projected third part of Suite Française.


Baker & Taylor
In a small French village in the years before the onset of World War II, Silvio, a middle-aged man enjoying his wine and his solitude, is drawn back into the life of his family and the village by the arrival of a cousin and the revelation of long-hidden secrets.

Blackwell North Amer
Written in 1941, the manuscript of Fire in the Blood was entrusted in pieces to family and a friend when the author was sent to her death at Auschwitz. The novel - only now assembled in its entirety - teems with the intertwined lives of an insular French village in the years before the war, when "peace" was less important as a political state than as a coveted personal condition: the untroubled pinnacle of happiness.
At the center of the tale is Silvio: in his younger years he fled the boredom of the village and made a life of travel and adventure. Now he's returned, living in a farmer's hovel in the middle of the woods, and, much to his family's chagrin, perfectly content with his solitude.
But when he attends the wedding of his favorite young cousin - "she has the thing that, when I was young, I used to value most in women: she has fire" - Silvio begins to be drawn back into the complicated life of this small town. As his narration unfolds, we are given an intimate picture of the loves and infidelities, the scandals, the youthful ardor and regrets of age that tie Silvio to the long-guarded secrets of the past.
Nemirovsky wrote with a crystalline understanding of the pretensions and protections of society, and of the varied workings of the human heart, in language as evocative of a vanished era as of the emotional and moral ambiguities in her characters' lives. All of which was evident in Suite Francaise - and abundantly evident again in this novel.

Baker
& Taylor

At the center of the tale is Silvio, who in his younger years fled the boredom of the village for of travel and adventure, returns to live in a farmer's hovel in the middle of the woods. Much to his family's dismay, Silvio is content with his solitude. But when he attends the wedding of his favorite young cousin, Silvio begins to be drawn back into the complicated life of this small town. As the narration unfolds, we are given an intimate picture of the loves and infidelities, the scandals, the youthfulardor and regrets of age that tie Silvio to the long-guarded secrets of the past.
A recently discovered but never-before-published novel by an author who died in Auschwitz in 1942 captures life in a small French village in the years before the onset of World War II, as Silvio, a middle-aged man enjoying his wine and his solitude, is drawn back into the life of his family and the village by the arrival of a cousin and the revelation of long-hidden secrets. 75,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2007
ISBN: 9780307267481
0307267482
Branch Call Number: FICTION NEMIROVSKY
Characteristics: 129 p
Additional Contributors: Smith, Sandra 1949-

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fpsutka
Mar 26, 2016

I struggled through the first third of this novel then it improved so I did manage to finish it. I found it gloomy and depressing. I assume that it is a good depiction of French country folks' lives in the early 20th century. They didn't have a lot of fun!
It seems wasteful for the library to have eight copies of this book when other novels are disappearing from the shelves - one copy would be sufficient.

bmetcalf64 Feb 24, 2012

A gem of a novel. Perfect narrative symmetry, and delicious, evocative, and haunting prose. Reading i is like drinking a glass of very fine old wine.

r
rgally
Feb 27, 2011

Calm and dispassionate Sylvio watches the passions around him and is stirred into remembering his own as a young man.

Worth a read - as are Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise and her other short novels like this one

s
seaspirit
May 19, 2008

Simple premise, but wonderfully written. Great introduction to the French and English versions of the book. I couldn't help wondering at the end if the book would have been continued had the author survived. A lot is left to the imagination with the final sentence.

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