Over the last month or so I have been reading, little by little, Irene Nemirovsky’s unfinished and belatedly (2004) published novel Suite Francaise. The French writer, of Russian Jewish origin, began this work, which she planned as a symphony in three parts, in June 1941 during the German occupation of France but was arrested a year later and sent to Auschwitz where she died soon after.
Nemirovsky is a very fine writer and Suite Francaise is a truly compelling read (sorry for the cliché, but it’s true), conveying the pathos and absurdity of vanquished/Nazi-collaborating France through a gallery of characters who are often shrewdly, and seldom lovingly, observed. Her detachment is understandable. As she wrote in her notebook as she planned the novel: “My God, what is this country doing to me? Since it is rejecting me, let us consider it coldly, let us watch as it loses its honour and its life.” The results are rather discomforting, especially for a Catholic reader as the most pious characters are seemingly the least admirable -- though the writer herself had adopted the same faith.
I thought about the world of this novel as I read Margriet Krijtenburg’s appreciation of the award of the Nobel Prize for Peace to the European Union. Only a few years after the end of a war -- just the latest in a long line -- in which France had been thoroughly humiliated (again) by Germany, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Robert Schuman (who, coming from the Germanised territory of Alsace-Lorraine, was no doubt specially suited for the job) stretched out the hand of co-operation towards Germany, proposing a common market in coal and steel. Schuman was a man of vision, a Catholic, by the way, and a very sincere one. I recommend her article as a starting point for anyone who wants to really understand the European Union ideal; it seems we could do no better than begin with its founding father.
While on the topic of history -- we have reproduced from Public Discourse a tribute by the Princeton professor Robert P. George to his recently deceased friend, the American historian Eugene Genovese, a colourful figure whose “passion for truth” led him from communism back to the faith of his childhood -- a fascinating story, even in outline.
In other articles: Andrew John writes about another set of Nobel prize-winners with clever ideas about match-making; Vincenzina Santoro pays tribute to an Italian entrepreneur who took his social responsibilities seriously; and Mariette Ulrich draws attention to a report from a family think tank in Canada with good ideas for helping Gen Y embrace marriage and family.
Which brings me to the best news of the week. Our Demography bloggers, Shannon and Marcus Roberts announced today the arrival of their firstborn, Thomas Anthony Arthur Roberts, 8lbs, 3oz and measured 55cm in length (22 inches), mother and baby both well, father slightly overwhelmed. The rest of the team at MercatorNet congratulate the happy parents, and you might like to add your congrats here.