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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Snow in Autumn

Irène Némirovsky

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To purchase Snow in Autumn

Title: Snow in Autumn
Author: Irène Némirovsky
Genre: Fiction
Written: 1931 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 45 pages
Original in: French
Availability: in David Golder, The Ball, Snow in Autumn, The Courilof Affair - US
in Le Bal - UK
in David Golder, The Ball, Snow in Autumn, The Courilof Affair - Canada
Les mouches d'automne - Canada
Les mouches d'automne - France
  • French title: Les mouches d'automne
  • Translated by Sandra Smith
  • Published in David Golder, The Ball, Snow in Autumn, The Courilof Affair in the US
  • Published in Le Bal in the UK

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Our Assessment:

B+ : poignant tale of Russian loss

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Haaretz . 13/2/2008 Gerald Sorin
The NY Rev. of Books . 20/11/2008 J.M.Coetzee
The NY Times Book Rev. . 9/3/2008 Thomas Mallon
The Times . 2/11/2007 Christina Koning
TLS . 2/11/2007 Emilie Bickerton

  From the Reviews:
  • "Compared to Courilof, Snow in Autumn (1931) is a slender story, but with its short chapters (some with dramatic endings), and thanks to Nemirovsky's psychological acuity, it is also a forceful tale." - Gerald Sorin, Haaretz

  • "Snow in Autumn owes a general debt to Chekhov and a specific debt to A Simple Heart, Flaubert's coolly factual story of a similarly faithful retainer. Aside from the arbitrary ending -- Némirovsky's endings tend to be cursory, perhaps a consequence of her habit of starting a new project before the old one was properly finished -- it is an accomplished piece of work, opposing Russian provincial life and old-fashioned fidelities, embodied in Tatiana, to Paris and the new, casual sexual mores that the younger Karines find so attractive." - J.M. Coetzee, The New York Review of Books

  • "(A) brief Tolstoyan threnody for the loyal servant class of czarist Russia." - Thomas Mallon, The New York Times Book Review

  • "At just over a hundred pages, and with its cool, understated prose and sharp psychological accuracy, this is perfect for a train journey -- a reminder of what good writing can achieve in a very few words." - Christina Koning, The Times

  • "These two stories bring out the strengths of Irene Nemirovsky's writing, its economy of expression and bold description; her lack of subtlety and depth, exposed in the longer stretch of Fire in the Blood, is less evident in the shorter, more dynamic works." - Emilie Bickerton, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Snow in Autumn centres around Tatiana Ivanovna, nanny to generations of the Karine family for over five decades. It begins with yet another son of the household going off to war, in yet another step of what is now a vast upheaval and fundamental change. She sees Youri again, as he returns to the house in 1918, during the Russian civil war, but by that time the family has fled and she's the only one looking after the place.
       Eventually she follows the family with what she can carry of what's left of the family fortune, and then she follows them into exile to France, where they try to build up a new life in unfamiliar surroundings. Everyone deals with the changed circumstances as best they can; not surprisingly, the old woman has the hardest time of it.
       Snow in Autumn almost feels like a sketch of a novel, covering a good deal of time and material in a short space, focussing in on only a few events. Némirovsky captures the scenes well: the situation in Russia, after the family has left the house, the locals warily almost circling it like vultures, or the way the different family members take to their French exile, including the carefree (and careless) younger generation.
       Not quite an elegy to what was lost, Snow in Autumn feels like a first attempt to deal with the émigré-experience, Némirovsky choosing to try to work through it through the old servant, rather than anyone whose experience was closer to her own -- allowing her both to nostalgically wallow more in that feeling of what was lost (as old folk are wont to do) as well as provide an out (as it's no surprise that Tatiana Ivanovna wont survive this exile-life for long).
       Poignant and elegant, Snow in Autumn doesn't feel so much pared down to the essence but rather a book where there was a great deal the author wasn't yet ready to explore. Still, it's a worthwhile short novella.

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Reviews: Irène Némirovsky: Other books by Irene Nemirovsky under review: Books about Irène Némirovsky under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Irène Némirovsky was born in Russia in 1903. Her family moved to France, where she became a successful and popular author in the 1930s. She died in Auschwitz in 1942.

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