Fire in the Blood
Irène Némirovsky Chatto & Windus, 153pp, £12.99
Fire in the Blood is the second, unfinished, novel discovered in the personal papers of Némirovsky, a precociously successful Russian-born, French-bred author who was deported to Auschwitz in 1942.
Némirovsky was little known outside France until Suite Française, unearthed and published in 2004, garnered international acclaim.
Yet the enthusiasm for a literary diamond dulls when the diamond was never cut. Fire in the Blood succeeds despite its incompletion for two reasons: first, those slipshod regions of an unfinished text – the plot inconsistencies, the seams of literary devices – don’t much matter here; and second, a provisional, unravelling narrative is precisely what the novel is concerned with.
Silvio lives on the outskirts of Issy-l’Évêque, waiting out the consequences of a prodigal youth. As he watches the next generation’s romantic entanglements unfurl, his own chequered past comes to light.
The book is laced with reflections on aging, identity and the effort to justify our endings by forgetting those possibilities that would have altered them. Némirovsky’s restraint counters the occasional melodrama, but her emotional intelligence performs the greatest redemption: surpassing her flaws with a grave awareness of love’s vagaries.