UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Louis K. Marmion

Louis K. Marmion

Supervisors: Prof Maria Rubins and Dr Jennifer Rushworth

Present Status: MPhil candidate

Proposed research title: The Némirovsky short story: memory, nostalgia and the creative process

My research examines the short writings of Irène Némirovsky, the Ukrainian-Jewish author of French expression, active during the years 1926-1942. Rather than focusing on the long-form fiction that made Némirovsky’s reputation during the interwar years, I instead approach the writer’s overshadowed repertoire of short-form prose, notably in relation to memory, nostalgia and the author’s creative process.

More specifically, I aim to locate the role and place of Némirovsky’s short fiction within the mnemonic paradigm that alimented her artistic vision and generated her writings. Fundamentally, my thesis is motivated by the following question: what role do memory and nostalgia play in the development of and within the Némirovsky short story? I argue that the short story form, with its poetic exigencies of brevity, impact and focus on a single character/event, constituted an ideal vehicle of expression for the author’s imagistic rendering of autobiographical memories. My thesis also seeks to illuminate a corpus that is noted for its porous intertextual borders, and, as such, lends itself to reading as a ‘hypertext’ or metanarrative of sorts. Themes recur across genres and works, while embryonic forms of novels appear in short stories. What, therefore, differentiates Némirovsky’s treatment of recurring themes from one genre to the other? How does that affect our interpretation of her novels?

To conclude, my PhD aims to further our understanding of a complex writer by exploring a neglected aspect of her body of work through an interdisciplinary approach combining memory and genre studies. The end result will hopefully illuminate the rest of Némirovsky’s symbiotic oeuvre, while placing her back on the map of the short story tradition.