An Interview with Susan Suleiman
Author Susan Suleiman will speak about her new book The Némirovsky Question at the Library on Wednesday 7 June at 19h30.
When did you first take interest in Irène Némirovsky’s writing?
I actually learned about her through the writing of her daugther, Elisabeth Gille. I was working on what I call the “1.5 generation,” that is the survivors of the Holocaust who were children during the war (versus adults) and who grew up to become writers – George Perec being perhaps the best example. Elisabeth Gille, later in her life, also wrote an autobiographical novel Un Paysage de Cendres (1996), about a child whose parents are deported, which I read around 2000. At the same time, her first book, Le Mirador, which is about her mother and was published in 1992, was reissued, and that’s how I first learned about Némirovosky.
What is your earliest memories as a reader or being at a library?
It was while I was still in Budapest, during the “Golden Years” following World War II but before the clampdown of communism (after which my family left). My mother would buy my children’s books, one by one, and I would keep them in a special closet where the shelves filled up with each new book. The whole ceremony of “getting the new book” was wonderful, a ritual between my mother and me.
What are you reading lately?
I read Michael Chabon’s Moonlight recently and I liked it alot – he’s a wonderful, inventive writer, and this book is particularly interesting because it’s a “faux autobiographical” novel, some approximation between truth and fiction. He refers to himself by name, and I suppost alot of it is really about his family – but much of it is invented, and he doesn’t exactly tell us where the border is between the two. In Johnny come lately fashion, I’ve actually plunged into Elena Ferrante’s Naples novels – it took a while to get launched, but now I’m on volume 3 and really enjoying it. Sometimes I read novels that authors send m – thus, I just recently discovered the popular novelist Alice Hoffman, whose book The Marriage of Opposites I read with pleasure. In the way of nonfiction, I often read things related, directly or indirectly, to my work and it doesn’t matter whether they published recently or years ago – right now I’m in the middle of Joshua Rubenstein’s massive biography of Ilya Ehrenburg, a Soviet-Jewish writer who spent many years living in Paris before and after World War I, and managed to evade Stalin’s wrath during the 1930s. And I’m about to start Stacy Schiff’s biography of Saint-Exupery! And then of course, I’m a huge consumer of the news, mostly in the form of print journalism, especially since Trump was elected – the “new drama everyday” presidency is a boon for journalists!