Archive | March 2014

Irene Nemirovsky’s “Fire in the Blood”

534158[1]Irene Nemirovsky’s Fire in the Blood is a poignant love story, set in a small town in France, in the late 1930s.

It is a short novel (a novella, really), but it’s very rich in description, characterization, intensity, and themes. The central theme, however, raised by Nemirovsky, is this: Old age and youth are at odds with one another.

Passion and love, loss and regret. The impossibility of turning the clock back and returning to the days of happiness. A woman’s true self. These questions are raised and pondered by a middle-aged man named Silvio, the narrator of the novel.

After roaming the world, Silvio finally returns home and resides in a secluded place close to a small town. He’s had an eventful life, and now all he wants to do is sit in a bar or at home in front of the fireplace, drink wine, and reminisce about the good old days. But he gets caught up in the middle of the events happening to a family he cares about, and that’s what makes him ask the proverbial questions about women, who they are and what they want. “Who knows the real woman?” he asks himself. “The lover or the husband? Are they really so different? Or are they subtly interwoven and inseparable? … It all comes down to the same thing: neither [of them does],” he concludes, sadly.

Well, Silvio may ask these questions about women, but he might as well ask the same questions about himself. He doesn’t understand how he happened to have become what he is now, so different from what he used to be at twenty.

The ending of Fire in the Blood is quite abrupt, but it doesn’t diminish the novel’s value. It does have a quite surprising twist, too.

Irene Nemirovsky was a fine writer, whose life was tragically cut short by the Nazis in 1942.