Dimanche and Other Stories by Irène Némirovsky: Fraternité (Brotherhood)

Dimanche and Other Stories

In Fraternité, the main protagonist, Christian Rabinovitch is an old Jewish man. Although wealthy, he is a reserved man, and his wife’s death ten years ago has affected him profoundly. His marriage had brought him a “feeling of stability and peace in and around him,” and now without his wife as his anchor, he feels anxious all the time.

One of the reasons for his worries is the proposed marriage between his son and his friend de Sestres’ daughter. While waiting for the train to take Christian to de Sestres’ chateau, he is overwrought that de Sestres will oppose the marriage on the grounds that Rabinovitchs are Jewish. And that is when Christain meets a stranger bearing the name Rabinovitch.

This Rabinovitch is nothing like Christian – it is obvious there’s a gulf between their social classes. At first, Christian takes a kind interest in Rabinovitch, but when Rabinovitch starts speaking in Yiddish, it is plain that Christian is not ready to confront his Jewish heritage. So when Christian gets into the train headed to de Sestres’, it looks like he might be able to put some distance between him and his ancestry, but soon he comes to realize he can’t fully disassociate himself from his Jewish identity.

Out of the four stories I’ve read so far in the collection Dimanche and Other Stories, it is Fraternité that moved me the most. So I’ll leave you with a paragraph from the story.

“I’d left Russia because at the time of the Revolution – that’s the luck of the Jew! – for the first time in my life I made a bit of money. I was scared, so I left. Life is worth more than riches alone. I’ve lived in Paris for fifteen years. That’ll last as long as it lasts… And now there’s my son in England! Where does God not cast the Jew? Lord, if only we could have a quiet life! But never, never can we settle! No sooner have we achieved, by the sweat of our brows, a bit of stale bread, four walls and a roof over our heads, than there’s a war, a revolution, a pogrom, or something else, and it’s goodbye! “Pack your bags, clear off. Go and live in another town, in another country. Learn another language – that’s no problem at your age, is it?” No, but you just get so tired. Sometimes I say to myself: “You’ll get some rest when you die. Until then, carry on with your dog’s life! You can rest later. Well, God is the master!”

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One comment

  1. That’s a heart-rending quote, Nirmala.

    Liked by 1 person

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