Monday, January 11, 2010

The Dogs and The Wolves by Irene Nemirovsky

The seventh of Nemirovsky's books to be recently republished is a tragic love triangle involving rich and poor Russian Jews.
Originally published in 1940 just prior to the restrictions placed on Jews living in France, The Dogs and The Wolves tells the story of Ada Stiller and Harry and Ben Sinner who are cousins. On one level the book is a love story that involves all three - Ada becomes infatuated as a child, after seeing the rich Russian-Jew, Harry Sinner one day. Unknown to Ada, Ben Sinner her cousin is in love with her and hates his rich cousin Harry.

On another level it is a story about Jews living in Europe and the difficulties they encountered assimilating into European society and the class struggles within Jewish society. Harry Sinner represents the dogs, the rich Jews who have been able to assimilate into European society while Ben Sinner represents the wolves, those who take whatever and whenever they can.
Ben and Ada eventually run away and marry to escape the brutal Aunt Raisa. All three surface in Paris, France where Ada learns that Harry is set to marry into a wealthy French Catholic family. Once again, Harry has assimilated, Ada and Ben have not. Ada's love for Harry eventually leads her to abandon Ben and to draw Harry into a scandalous love affair that threatens to ruin his marriage. Harry himself is drawn to Ada through her artwork and their common Jewish heritage.
When Ben destroys Harry's inheritance, thus threatening him with ruin and destitution, Ada must make the choice between staying with Harry or setting him free to go back to his wife whose family can save him. She must make the choice between Harry becoming as she is - a wolf or remaining wealthy and assimilated and accepted - a dog.
Poignant and rich in texture, this book captured my attention to it's riveting, sad conclusion.
Book Details:
The Dogs and The Wolves by Irene Nemirovsky
Chatto and Windus 2009

No comments: