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Jewish Identity in Question: The Legacy of Irène Némirovsky

Irène Némirovsky (1903-1942) was a Russian Jewish immigrant to France who achieved a brilliant career as a novelist during the 1930s but was deported as a “foreign Jew” in 1942 and died in Auschwitz. Némirovsky’s tragic fate mirrors that of many assimilated Jews in Europe who had abandoned Jewish religious practice (sometimes to the point of conversion to Christianity), only to be treated like all other Jews by the Nazis. Némirovsky’s portrayals of Jewish characters in her fiction are controversial, for some readers consider them to be antisemitic. Susan Rubin Suleiman, the author of a new book, The Némirovsky Question, argues instead that her Jewish characters exemplify the dilemmas and contradictions of Jewish existence in the 20th century, in Europe and beyond.

Susan Rubin Suleiman is the C. Douglas Dillon Research Professor of the Civilization of France and Research Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. She is the author of The Némirovsky Question: The Life, Death, and Legacy of a Jewish Writer in 20th-Century France (2016) and many other books, including Crises of Memory and the Second World War (2006), Subversive Intent: Gender, Politics, and the Avant-Garde (1990), Risking Who One Is: Encounters with Contemporary Art and Literature (1994), and the memoir Budapest Diary: In Search of the Motherbook (1996).

Conference in English.