Thursday, June 25, 2009

Woman of Letters at the Museum of Jewish Heritage

If you haven't gone yet, you should definitely check out Woman of Letters at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. If you go, though, I strongly recommend that you read Suite Francaise. The exhibit is more of a companion piece than a stand-alone experience. Plus, I think Nemirovsky's writings are in conversation with the curatorial voice of the exhibition in an interesting way...

The exhibition derives its power from the artifacts of everyday life-- salvaged letters, a water-logged valise and the bureaucratic documents that so brutally recorded the movement of prisoners from precincts to extermination camps. Looking at convoy rosters and death certificates, it sank in for me how little genocide has in common with chaos.

At the same time, I think that the way in which the exhibition attempts to claim Irene Nemirovsky as a purely Jewish casualty of the holocaust is an unfair oversimplification. The beauty of Nemirovsky's surviving correspondence, and her writing, is precisely the way in which it defies easy categorization. Nemirovsky's individuality and humanity transcends any categorization imposed by the French government, or by historical interpretation.

1 comment:

Hannah Furst said...

Dear Adina,

Thank you so much for visiting the MJH-NYC's exhibition about Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française, and posting about it for your readers. Since I’m sure you have a large and geographically diverse readership and it includes people who can’t get to New York to see the exhibition, I just wanted to call your attention to the companion website we developed in conjunction with the exhibition. On this website,, readers can explore the original manuscript for Suite Française, examine photographs, hear from Irène's daughter Denise, and post on our Woman of Letters blog. Although the exhibition closes August 30, the website will be accessible long after.