While not all the pieces are of equal quality, the collection as a whole is further proof that its daring, protean author’s...

DAVID GOLDER, THE BALL, SNOW IN AUTUMN, THE COURILOF AFFAIR

Four works of fiction, three available in English for the first time, by the Russo-French author and Auschwitz victim whose fame was resurrected with the long-lost Suite Française (2006).

The appealing Snow in Autumn, a poignant portrait of often unappreciated devotion in a topsy-turvy world, concerns Tatiana, an old nanny who has worked for rich Russian landowners her entire life. The revolution forces the family to flee; Tatiana follows them to Paris, for they are her people; her dead husband and child barely rate a mention. Less appealing is The Ball, which concerns the plan of an unpleasant, nouveau-riche Parisian couple to launch themselves into society through a ball. Their scheme is foiled by their mistreated 14-year-old daughter, who destroys the invitations, but the destruction is rather contrived. David Golder is the novella that made Némirovsky famous. The eponymous Golder is an old, wealthy oil speculator, an odious Russian Jew transplanted to Paris. After rejecting his longtime partner’s plea for help and driving him to suicide, he joins his family, loathsome parasites, in Biarritz. The story pulses with a passionate misanthropy, tinged with anti-Semitism (an assimilated Jew, Némirovsky eventually converted to Catholicism). It’s crude, yes, but forceful and memorable. Finally there is The Courilof Affair. Of particular interest in our terror-sensitive times, it’s the memoir of a former revolutionary terrorist, now disenchanted. Logna, the son of Russian terrorists, is raised in Switzerland. In 1903, the young man is sent to St. Petersburg to assassinate Courilof, the brutal Minister of Education. Logna infiltrates the household by posing as a doctor (Courilof has liver cancer). In a variation on the Stockholm Syndrome, the terrorist softens towards his enemy, for the Minister has endearing qualities. Replete with ironies, this is the standout work.

While not all the pieces are of equal quality, the collection as a whole is further proof that its daring, protean author’s wretched death was indeed a loss to literature.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-307-26708-5

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Everyman’s Library

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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