Two novellas are brought together. In the first, “Storm in June,” a host of people flee Paris in June 1941- -as the Germans occupied the city. They gather their money and most precious belongings and leave their homes, reasoning that there will be more safety in the countryside. But everyone has the same idea. The crush results in shortages of fuel, food and accommodation that radiate in ever widening ripples around the city. Many are duped by employers or by lovers. Some are robbed and even murdered by unscrupulous fellow citizens, and new conventions of behavior and bureaucracy are forged in the stress of the situation. The fortunes of several different individuals are interwoven in short chapters to explore a wide variety of adventures--tragic, miraculous, and poignantly banal. Among the most memorable is the little saga of the Michaud’s – a couple driven out of Paris, then back – all the while anxious for news of their son at the front.

The second novella, “Dolce,” is the story of the unhappily married Lucile whose husband has gone to the front. She must bide time in the home of her austere mother-in-law, Madame Angellier, who treats her with frank hostility. They are forced to billet a German officer. Lucile soon finds that she and the German share many interests in art and music; gradually the two fall in love, although they act upon their sentiments in conversation only. The full extent of their involvement must be concealed, but the community is aware and Lucile understands the potential consequences of “sleeping with the enemy.” Her mother-in-law hates her all the more for growing close to the occupier; yet their neighbours shamelessly prevail upon her connections to obtain minor favors.

When a local Frenchman kills a German soldier for allegedly courting his wife, the uneasy calm is destabilized. Almost by default, Lucile agrees to hide the fugitive murderer in her attic in bold proximity to her German tenant. The brave act is discovered by her mother-in-law who then (wrongly) perceives Lucile’s friendship with the German as a clever plot; her hatred turns to grudging admiration. Using her influence and a lie to obtain a pass from her unsuspecting German friend, Lucile escorts the ungrateful murderer to safety in Paris. The deception drives a wedge into her new relationship. They part never to meet again as his company is transferred to another place.


Astonishingly beautiful prose, haunted by the knowledge that the writer died in Auschwitz only a few months after composing these tales. As new testimony of the war from within by one of its tragic victims, many parallels can be found with the Diary of Anne Frank.

The various interconnected stories in "Storm in June" seem like a latter day Canterbury Tales laced with keen insight, tender irony, and merciless frankness. It is strange for twenty-first-century readers to find that the 1941 characters expect the war to be short; in many places, they refer to it as already "over" and "lost." The author could neither appreciate nor intend the grim irony in her own words.

In "Dolce," Lucile is a depressed and accidental heroine. Her major achievement is to face her feelings -- for her husband, the German, and her mother -- with brutal honesty. The novella explores the irrefutable plausibility of collaboration on an intensely human scale.

A slim connection between the two novellas occurs when Lucile and her mother-in-law offer shelter for the Michaud couple in "Storm in June." More parallels were intended as the appendices make clear.

Appendices provide the outline of the third novella, "Captivity," that was to complete the triology. In that story, Lucile was to become involved with the Michaud's beloved son who would die heroically. "But how?" Nemirovksy asked herself in her notes, "And what is heroism these days?" (p. 350).

The Appendices also explain the author's biography and the history of the book itself. A Ukranian-born naturalized French citizen of Jewish descent, Némirovsky and her family fled to a small town in occupied France, hoping for the same anonymity and safety as the characters in "Storm in June." She was already a published author of some renown. When she was taken by the Nazis, her frantic husband searched for her, writing letters of appeal, which appear in the Appendices. Eventually he too was captured and murdered. Their two daughters survived the war, but they thought that the manuscript was a diary and far too painful to read. Only fifty years later, did the one remaining sister, Denise Epstein, realize that it contained two novellas and notes for a third. The first French edition appeared in 2004 to wide acclaim and calls for a posthumous Goncourt prize for its author.


Translated from the French by Sandra Smith. Appendices pp. 341-95


Alfred A. Knopf

Place Published

New York and Toronto



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