Suite Francaise

The entire village was waiting for the Germans.  Faced with the idea of seeing their conquerors for the first time, some people felt desperate shame, others anguish, but many felt only apprehensive curiosity, as when some astonishing new theatrical event is announced.  The civil servants, police, postmen had all been ordered to leave the day before.  The mayor was staying.  He was a placid old farmer with gout; nothing flustered him.  With or without a leader, things in the village went on much the same…everyone agreed that the army had failed and there was nothing more to be done; they had no choice but to give up.  The room was filled with chatter.  It was stiflingly hot.

That is from Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky.  This remarkable work is one of the important French-language novels of the twentieth century; it deserves all the raves.  Yet it was just discovered and published; sadly the author died at Auschwitz in 1942.  Here is the story of the book.  I know of no better treatment — fiction or non-fiction — of living under a conquering army.  Highly recommended.


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