The ugly colour war can turn a man’s soul

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Some novels from the first word seem to fit a groove that satisfies on a deep level. The groove small children find when a story takes them out of themselves with an expectant sigh. It does not have to be a favourite story, it can be new and strange about something they know nothing of. All they know is this is worth their complete attention and wait for the magic to work.

Irene Nemirovsky: even the cadence of the name conjures such expectation. An iconic kiss for the front cover, a period of history so much written of and lamented, a masterful and confident voice and translation; Fires of Autumn has it all in spades.

The novel explores French life in the great sweep of the 20 th century. Published posthumously and written in the last two years of her life, after she fled from Paris in 1940 and before her arrest and eventual death in a Nazi concentration camp. It is a prequel of the Suite Francaise masterpiece.

It is a coruscating, tragic evocation of the reality of war and its dirty aftermath and the ugly colour it can turn a man’s soul.

We do well to remember when banalities are bandied by Cameron and his ilk, as they square up and posture for unleashing the horror of war.

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