With the enthusiastic reception of Suite Francaise, Irène Némirovsky's 1940 panoramic novel depicting the Nazi occupation of France during World War II, discovered by her daughter fifty years later and published in English translation in 2006, there has been an ever increasing interest in any and everything else of the neglected author's work that might be resurrected. Two other volumes followed: Fire in the Blood, a novella in 2007 and a 2008 collection of short works, including the novella, "David Golder." Now a newly translated collection of ten of her short stories, Dimanche and Other Stories has become available from Vintage Books.
While three of the ten stories deal with the period around the beginning of WW II — indeed two of them, concerned with refugees of one kind or another fleeing the approaching Nazi army, could well have sat nicely in Suite Francaise — six of the other stories are set between the wars, and the seventh is set in a pre-war Ukraine. Moreover, the tone of most of these stories is reminiscent of no author so much as Anton Chekov. Némirovsky's Russian heritage translates well into the Parisian cafes and drawing rooms of these stories.
"Dimanche," ("Sunday": all titles are given in French and then translated) the feature story, parallels in counterpoint the story of a mother in her forties trapped in a passionless marriage and that of her daughter just twenty and beginning to experience what she thinks is love. It is a bitter sweet story illustrating how quickly youthful passion turns to gray middle age, and it is all played out on a beautiful Sunday afternoon as the various members of a family of four go about spending their day. The daughter goes off to secretly meet her lover; the father leaves after lunch for a tryst with his mistress. The mother stays at home with the younger child. Little happens, but as in a Chekov story, everything happens.