Fire in the Blood

Fire in the BloodFire in the Blood by Irène Némirovsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The French countryside in the 1930s. The passions and secrets of an extended family are viewed by the peripheral figure Silvestre. He is a single, middle aged man living out a sedate, uneventful life, withdrawn from this bourgois farming community; in his youth he chose restless wandering leading nowhere much, in contrast to his peers’ movement toward cold, grasping prosperity. His detachment doesn’t last as the passions and dramas of young couples around him stir up the longings of his own youth, when he was known as Silvio.

The transition from young to old is the main theme i took from the book. There are so many ways to look at this trajectory – naive to sophisticated, self-centred to empathic, impulsive/impatient to patient/cautious, hopeful to resigned, energetic to tired, and – swallowing them all in importance these days – pretty to ugly. This author’s take is the movement from generous-spirited and hopeful to pinched, diminished, dulled: the older person is someone who time has shallowed and shrunk. Finding the forgotten young person inside you is your best hope of revitalisation. “I want to bring that stranger to life” Silvestre declares. The author (in her late thirties at that stage) now does so on his behalf, by recapturing his youth in writing.

The novel has the feel of a nineteenth or early twentieth century play – and apparently the author initially considered writing it in that format (Intro, p. xi).

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