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.
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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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