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The Misunderstanding is Irene Nemirovsky's first vel, written when she was just twenty-one and published in a literary journal two years later. An intense story of self-destructive and blighted love, it is also a tragic satire of French society after the Great War. Yves Harteloup, scarred by the war, is a disappointed young man, old money fallen on hard times, who returns for the summer to the rich, comfortable Atlantic resort of Hendaye, where he spent blissful childhood holidays. He becomes infatuated with a beautiful, bored young woman, Denise, whose rich husband is often away on business. Intoxicated by summer nights and Yves' intensity, Denise falls passionately in love, before the idyll has to end and Yves must return to his mundane office job. In the mournful Paris autumn their love flounders on mutual misunderstanding, in the apparently unbridgeable gap between a life of idle wealth and the demands of making a living, between a woman's needs and a man's way of loving. As Denise is driven mad with desire and jealous suspicion, Yves, too sure of her, tortures himself and her with his emotional ambivalence. Taking her sophisticated mother's advice, Denise takes action ...which she may regret forever. With a sharp satirical eye and a characteristic perception for the fault lines in human relationships, Irene Nemirovsky's first vel shows sure signs of the brilliant velist she was to become.
Irene Nemirovsky was born in Kiev in 1903, the daughter of a successful Jewish banker. In 1918 her family fled the Russian Revolution for France where she became a bestselling novelist, author of David Golder, Le Bal, The Courilof Affair, All Our Worldly Goods and other works published in her lifetime or afterwards, such as Suite Francaise and Fire in the Blood. The Misunderstanding (Le Malentendu) was first published in France in Les OEuvres libres in 1926. Nemirovsky was prevented from publishing when the Germans occupied France and moved with her husband and two small daughters from Paris to the safety of the small village of Issy-l'Eveque (in German occupied territory). She died in Auschwitz in 1942.