With a mix of excitement and trepidation, New Yorkâs Museum of Jewish Heritage announced this week that it is planning to stage an exhibition devoted to the writer IrÃ¨ne NÃ©mirovsky in the fall.
The exhibition, the first museum show ever devoted to the recently rediscovered French author, is in many regards a coup for the 10-year-old institution. It is also, by the museumâs own admission, something of a risk.
In certain respects, NÃ©mirovsky, who perished at Auschwitz in 1942, is a natural subject for the museum that calls itself âA Living Memorial to the Holocaust.â That one of the authorâs final pieces of writing, the unfinished manuscript discovered more than 50 years after her death and published as âSuite FranÃ§aiseâ in 2004, has become an international sensation only enhances her appeal. And yet, choosing NÃ©mirovsky â a convert to Catholicism who published in right-wing journals and whose early work contains what can only be seen as deeply unsympathetic portrayals of Jews â is a departure. It is also, some observers of the museum world say, a daring and historic move.
âHolocaust museums are so often concerned with communicating a clear and unambiguous message,â said Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, professor of performance studies at New York University and an authority on contemporary Jewish museums. âBy taking up the subject of NÃ©mirovsky, the Museum of Jewish Heritage is showing a willingness to lift things beyond the realm of black and white. The show may well be controversial, but it will open up a new kind of conversation.â
Read the rest of that story from The Forward here.