Sunday, June 8, 2014

Suite Française Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The women, more anxious, more alert, were already up, although some of them, after closing the windows and shutters, went back to bed. (location 103)

Paris had its sweetest smell, the smell of chestnut trees in bloom and of petrol with a few grains of dust that crack under your teeth like pepper. In the darkness the danger seemed to grow. You could smell the suffering in the air, in the silence. (location 536)

... everyone wrapped their arms tightly round their wife or child and nothing else mattered; the rest could go up in flames. (location 544)

They were living two different moments, you might say, half in the present and half deep in the past, as if what was happening could only seep into a small part, leaving all the deeper regions peacefully asleep. (location 549)

He would stay briefly in Lisbon and then get out of this hideous Europe, dripping with blood. He could picture it: a decomposing corpse, slashed with a thousand wounds. (location 634)

... they weren't made, my God, to die in battle, they weren't made for death. In all her life that woman had probably never said anything but ordinary things like 'The leeks are getting bigger' or 'Who's the dirty pig who got my floor all muddy?' (location 922)

The world was crumbling, was nothing more than rubble and ruins, yet they remained the same. Women were inferior creatures; they didn't know the meaning of heroism, glory, faith, the spirit of sacrifice. (location 1219)

He was thinking about the cathedral in Rouen, the chateaux of the Loire, the Louvre. A single one of those venerable stones was worth more than a thousand lives. (location 1801)

But she said nothing about what was worrying her most: her husband and two sons, gone, all three called up and missing... All three away in that vaguely defined, ever-changing, terrifyingly imminent place called 'the war'... (location 1922)

Today, any disagreement seemed unimportant. They were all on the same side, they were all together! They were living proof that nothing was changing. Contrary to belief, they weren't witnessing some extraordinary cataclysm, the end of the world, but rather a series of purely human events, limited in time and space, which, all in all, affected only the lives of people they didn't know. (location 2627)

And almost immediately, as if they were meeting again after the most peaceful, the most ordinary of summers, they began the kind of conversation Charlie called 'Fragile-Don't Touch'conversation: lively and light-hearted small-talk, ranging over any number of subject but dwelling on none in particular. (location 2916)

What was he doing writing these stupid stories, letting himself be pampered by the farmer's wife, while his friends were in prison, his despairing parents thought he was dead, when the future was so uncertain, the past so bleak? (location 3086)

The wind blew the smoke from the laundry boiler towards the barn. It was one of those dark, stormy days in the middle of August when you can smell the first breath of autumn in the air. (location 3182)

She reached for the warming stone, which a few hours had been burning hot but was now icy cold, took it out from under the sheets and set it gently down on the floor. As her hand touched the freezing tiles, she felt an even icier chill run straight her heart. She was sobbing violently. What could anyone say to ease her pain?(location 3249)

Sometimes a German soldier would push open the gate of one of these little gardens to ask for a match to light his pipe, or for a fresh egg, or a glass of beer. The gardener would give him what he wanted; then, leaning on his spade and lost in thought, watch him walk away before turning back to his work with a shrug of the shoulders that was no doubt a reaction to a world of thoughts, so numerous, so deep, so serious and strange that it was impossible to express them in words. (location 3952)

Suddenly, she envied these children who could enjoy themselves without worrying about the time, the war, misfortune. It seemed to her that among a race of slaves, they alone were free, 'truly free,' she thought to herself. Reluctantly, she walked back to the silent, morose house, whipped by the rain. (location 4377)

The spirit of the people is undoubtedly also ruled by laws that elude us, or by whims we know nothing about. How sad the world is, so beautiful yet so absurd... But what is certain is that in five, ten or twenty years, this problem unique to our time, according to him, will no longer exist, it will be replaced by others... Yet this music, the sound of this rain on the windows, the great mournful creaking of the cedar tree in the garden outside, this moment, so tender, so strange in the middle of war, this will never change, not this. This is for ever... (location 4480)

They fell silent. He closed the piano. 'After the war, Madame, I'll come back. All the conflict between France and Germany will be finished... forgotten... for at least fifteen years. One evening I'll ring the doorbell. You'll open it and you won't recognize me in my civilian clothes. Then I'll say: but it'e me... the German officer... do you remember? There's peace now, freedom, happiness. I'm taking you away from here. Come, let's go away together. I'll show you many different countries. I'll be a famous composer, of course, and you'll be as beautiful as you are at this very moment...' (location 4488)

Were they happy to see them go? Did they secretly wish they'd all get killed? Did anyone feel sorry for them? Would they miss them? Of course they wouldn't be missed as Germans, as conquerors (they weren't naive enough to think that), but would the French miss these Pauls, Siegfrieds, Oswalds who had lived under their roofs for three months, showed them pictures of their wives and mothers, shared more than one bottle of wine with them? But both the French and the Germans remained inscrutable; they were polite, careful of what they said - 'Well, that's the war... (location 5621)

'Will you come and say goodbye to me, Herr Lieutenant? I'm going out, but I'll be back at six o'clock.'
The three young men stood up and clicked their heels. In the past, she had found this display of courtesy by the soldiers of the Reich old-fashioned and rather affected. Now, she thought how much she would miss this light jingling of spurs, the kiss of the hand, the admiration these soldiers showed her almost in spite of themselves, soldiers who were without family, without female companionship (except for the lowest type of woman). There was in their respect for her a hint of tender melancholy: it was as if, thanks to her, they could recapture some remnant of their former lives where kindness, a good education, politeness towards women had far more value than getting drunk or taking an enemy position. There was gratitude and nostalgia in their attitude towards her; she could sense it and was touche by it. (location 5731)

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