An Actress in Occupied Paris
The winner of nine literary awards in France, including the Prix Simone Veil, celebrating a woman of action, Bérénice 1934–44: An Actress in Occupied Paris is Isabelle Stibbe’s poignant debut novel. Now translated into English by Zack Rogow and Renée Morel, Bérénice 1934–44 reveals a young woman’s struggle to fulfill her career aspirations while concealing herself in war-torn France.
Bérénice yearns to become an actress, but her parents insist that career is not proper for a girl. She defies her Jewish family to become the leading younger actress in the Comédie-Française, France’s most renowned theater, right when the Nazis occupy France. Bérénice hides her true identity and last name to avoid detection. Living in a world without tolerance and torn between two lovers, Bérénice must choose between her passion for the stage, and her allegiance to freedom and to her Jewish heritage.
Critical Praise for the Original French Edition:
"This is an amazing first novel.”—Le Nouvel Observateur
“Isabelle Stibbe blends real history and fictitious characters in this well-researched first novel, with an impeccable classic style.”—Le Monde
“Her novel doesn’t just document a slice of French cultural life under the Occupation—it also communicates the passion and fervor of its author.”—Livres Hebdo
“Bérénice 1934-44 is Isabelle Stibbe’s first novel, but it feels to the reader like the work of a seasoned writer, particularly in her masterful blending of fiction and historical fact.”—Le Figaro
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“What do you want to be when you grow up, Bérénice?”
“Oy, gevalt,” Monsieur Capel objected, “an actress! That’s no profession for a Jew. Have you ever seen a Jewish actress? Greta Garbo—does she look Jewish to you? Elvire Popesco, is she Jewish? Gaby Morlay, is she a Jew? That’s not a job for us!”
“What about Rachel, wasn’t she Jewish?” Grandma Mathilde set the bait.
“Rachel, Rachel … that’s ancient history.”
“But Papa, why isn’t it a profession for us?”
“Tss. Those actresses are all shiksas. How do they say it? Every one of them is a cooker.”
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