“But what is certain is that in five, ten or twenty years, this problem unique to our time, according to him, will no longer exist, it will be replaced by others…Yet this music, the sound of this rain on the windows, the great mournful creaking of the cedar tree in the garden outside, this moment, so tender, so strange in the middle of war, this will never change, not this, this is forever.”
― Irène Némirovsky, Suite française
“The French Suite” is a special book for a few reasons. To begin, Irène Némirovsky wrote a beautiful story set in France during the Second World War. Second, her prose is eloquent, as can be evidenced from the above QOTD. Third, we’ll never know the “real” ending, as Némirovsky only completed two of the five stories planned for this novel before she was rounded up by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz, where she was murdered. Fourth, by some miracle of you know who, “The notebook containing the two novels was preserved by her daughters but not examined until 1998. They were published in a single volume entitled Suite française in 2004.”
I wrote about another brilliant work that survived a totalitarian regime through samizdat, The Master and Margarita, but there’s yet another book I read that somehow squeaked out from under intolerant noses, Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman. Per the Wiki entry on the book:
Life and Fate, the sequel to For a Just Cause, was written in the aftermath of Stalin’s death. Grossman submitted it around October 1960 for potential publication to the Znamya magazine. At this point, the KGB raided his apartment. The manuscripts, carbon copies and notebooks, as well as the typists’ copies and even the typewriter ribbons were seized.
In 1974, a friend and a prominent poet Semyon Lipkin got one of the surviving copies put onto microfilm and smuggled it out of the country with the help of satirical writer Vladimir Voinovich and nuclear scientist Andrei Sakharov. Grossman died in 1964, never having seen his book published, which did not happen in the West until 1980.
It would seem that in these cases there is much truth to the idiom The pen is mightier than the sword.