To fully understand why Nemirovsky wrote a biography of Chekov, it is also important to understand each thinker’s life and how they were similar.
Irene Nemirovsky, daughter of a banker from Kiev, fled the Russian Empire at the start of the Russian Revolution in 1917 and settled in Paris with her family as a young girl.
While writing in French, she looked up to the way that Chekhov wrote, thought and acted. Nemirovksy's international education and linguistic skills helped her to realize that the life of her role model needed to be forever documented.
- She was born in Chekhov's part of the world, and was famous for drawing connections to her birthplace – Ukraine.
- She grew up in a wealthy household and moved with her family to different countries in Europe before finally establishing a new home in France.
- Nemirovsky was educated in France in the 1920s at the Sorbonne and became fluent in French.
- She wrote a lot of novels in French, and was famous for her short stories and novellas as well. She was a fairly prolific writer and used her writing to make critical sense of the world and how it operates.
- Nemirovsky had children and a family, which demonstrates that she was truly well rounded – something very special in terms of women writers of her time.
- She was a key figure in her family life as well as within the academic community, and she was also an important figure in the Jewish community.
- She was very successful with writing although unfortunately, her biography of Chekhov was not published until she had passed away – a crime despite her true talent and influence.
Much of Nemirovsky's writing was produced during a critical time to think about the meaning of life within the context of the anti-Semitism that was growing within Europe. France and Russia were not immune to the growing resentment of Jewish people within the greater European community, and the truth was, Nemirovsky was a strong women with good values that broke the false stereotypes held by many individuals of her time.
Nemirovsky’s biography of Chekhov is known for being thorough and extensive, but not many people know that it was a piece that was published after her 1942 death in Auschwitz.
The biography itself, published posthumously in 1946, was called La vie de Tchekhov in French. The biography reveals her own style and technique; however, we can also see how much she appreciated French realism, and Chekhov’s style.
Chekhov was a great thinker who focused on the technique of narrating stories, and not necessarily involving himself too much in his writing, and yet his observations of humans and their lifestyles (as revealed through his writing) was quite perfect.
Nemirovsky’s life came to a tragic end, but her biography about Chekhov will be remembered forever.
For more information about Nemirovsky and Chekov, you should speak to a historian or librarian who can direct you to published research about Russian Jewish émigrés and their life during the time surrounding World War II.