Irène Némirovsky: Biography

Irène Némirovsky

11 feb 1903

Irène Némirovsky was a Ukrainian writer who was born in Kiev in 1903. She was a successful author but led an otherwise tragic life. Her family were forced to flee the Russian Empire when the 1917 Revolution began, heading firstly to Finland, before settling in Paris in 1919. Némirovsky quickly learned French, and she began to write whilst living in Paris.

In 1926, she married a banker, Michael Epstein, and together they had two daughters. Although Némirovsky had begun to write when she first moved to Paris, it was not until 1929 that her first story was published. It was called David Golder, and was the story of a Jewish banker and his ungrateful daughter. It was very successful, and was so popular that it was adapted for cinema in 1930.

Although Irène Némirovsky was a successful author, choosing to write in French over her mothertongue, Némirovsky was denied French citizenship. She was born Jewish, but converted to Catholicism in 1939. She wrote for extremely nationalist magazines, and yet she still received huge amounts of anti-semitic criticism. When the Second World War broke out, most magazines suddenly refused to publish Némirovsky’s work. Her husband soon lost his job at the bank, and the couple fled with their two daughters to rural France. In 1942, both Némirovsky and her husband were arrested separately by Nazi officers. Despite their catholic faith, their Jewish ancestry meant that both were immediately sent to Auschwitz where they were both killed within a month of arriving.