The Dogs and the Wolves was first published in 1940, the last one to be published in Irene Nemirovsky‘s lifetime, although several books were published posthumously.
It seems that she returned to her early life for the subject matter of this one, which is unusual for an author I think, it reads more like something which would have been written earlier in an author’s career.
It’s the story of two families with the surname Sinner who live in the Ukraine, they’re distantly related but have had no contact with each other for generations as one family is living in the poor Jewish quarter at the bottom of the town, life is hard for them and things get an awful lot worse when the local army recruits take it into their minds to attack the Jews in the ghetto. The poor Sinner children get caught up in the pogrom and in desperation they make their way up to their rich relative’s house at the top of the town, and so begins a relationship between the children which continues into adulthood as they move from the Ukraine to Paris.
The dogs in the title are the rich Jews and the wolves are the poor struggling Jews and the author writes about them having typical Jewish characteristics but it seems to me that their attitudes are just those of most human beings in that no matter how poor they might be they still have hope that some sort of miracle will happen and they will suddenly be well off. It’s that hope which keeps a lot of people going, no matter what religion they are. A Jewish friend of mine is always complaining about Jewish mothers being so worried about their children but I don’t see any difference to any other mothers, it’s just the territory that you get when you have children. We’re all the same no matter which culture you’ve been brought up with, which of course is just what Shakespeare was saying in The Merchant of Venice.
Anyway, I enjoyed this one, there’s a lot more to the story than I have said (as usual) but it wasn’t as good as Fire in the Blood which is the only other book by Nemirovsky which I’ve read.
Sadly Irene Nemisrovsky died in Auschwitz in 1942.