Florence Noiville

Stock | Published : 22/08/2012 by Seagull Books | ISBN : 978-2-234-06110-1

Book launch at BookCulture
on Colombus Ave, New York
10 juin 2015


I try to look at our story but it hypnotizes me. I want to discover something in it but i don't know what. The birth of the feeling of love ? The mysterious need that brings us together. By looking through a manifying glass at that instance of insane love, a love beyond all logic and reason, I try to isolate the force. The force of attraction. What is it that makes us act when we become attracted to a person whom we should never even have spoken to?





by Curt Levian

The NewYork Journal of books
“The brevity of text perforce creates a poetic compression.” With her superb biography of Isaac Bashevis Singer, Isaac B. Singer: A Life, and her moving novel, The Gift, the French writer, Florence Noiville, via the magical passport of translation, has seamlessly entered into American literature. And now we have her latest work, a riveting new novel, Attachment, about a remembered love affair between a 17-year-old high school student and her 47-year-old teacher.
The web site



by Andrew Eagle

A profile - What makes the writer ?
“The starting point is always a question, says Florence Noiville, French author, journalist and foreign literary editor for Le Monde newspaper...
Read more



Festival des Ecrivains du Monde 2015
Paris 25-27 septembre

The web site



Session 31 - Florence Noiville in conversation with Naveen Kishore at Alliance Française Delhi
Wednesday, May 28


The Gift

Florence Noiville (Published in 2012 by Northwestern University Press)

This moving fictional memoir begins as a woman heads home after a meeting regarding her inheritance. Numbed by the legalese uttered by the attorney, her mind drifts back to her childhood, and she sees her life with sudden clarity. On the train, she jots down a few notes, which prompt a poetic outpouring of memory and emotion that make up this sparse and delicate novel.

We learn that her life was dominated by the figure of her mother. Labeled “eccentric” or “Italian,” her mother in fact suffered from what was later found to be manic-depression. Without understanding the disease, the family reacted to the ups and downs as they hit, unpredictably. During periods of paralyzing depression she was hospitalized, and the family felt abandoned. During periods of manic productivity and overdrive, they rejoiced at her singing, cooking, and dreaming.

This novel draws the portrait of a grand and unforgettable lady, loving and unable to love at once. Her bequest is as much a material one as it is an emotional one, and, the narrator surmises as she glances at her own daughters, a genetic one...


Review by Curt Leviant in Jewish World December 21, 2012

I read this profound and moving novel three times. First, to get the feel of it; second, to immerse myself in its psychological depths; and third, to read it with pen in hand.
This fictional first-person narrative by Florence Noiville, author of the marvelous Isaac B. Singer: a Life, recounts the relationship between a sensitive daughter and I her talented, bipolar mother. When suffering from acute depression she is vulnerable and often hospitalized “for months on end.” But in her manic mood she works as a pharmacist, meticulous homemaker and botanically sophisticated gardener in a village in France. In either state the daughter is caught in the web of a strong-willed woman who is dosed with many medications, most of them available in her own pharmacy.
Why is this novel called The Gift? At the beginning the unnamed narrator is summoned along with her sister to the family lawyer’s office and, in the presence of her parents, is read the legal document that gives the two sisters the family estate as a future inheritance: “a huge house with a tower, ground, a poplar grove, horses ...” A day later, at the train station on her way back to Paris, the narrator has the idea of writing a letter to her parents, a thought that un-dams a flood of memories that begins with her childhood, not unlike the famous madeleine — that biscuit dipped into milk tea which opens Marcel Proust’s classic French novel, Remembrance of Things Past.
But the gift may be two-edged. There is another, darker face to it, for depression seems to be part of the maternal line. The inheritance is not only house and land but a multi- generational emotional bacillus. The narrator’s mother reveals that her grandmother hated her daughter, who also had psychological problems.
As we shall see, more generations carry this invisible but palpable burden. The narrator shares with us the stresses of her young life. At age 11 she changed her first name (even as far back as biblical times a change of name equaled a change of personality, direction, responsibility), and no longer answered to the old one. To demonstrate her free will, she “wanted to go into exile from myself. As far away as possible from the hateful ‘real me.’ ” The new name gains acceptance, says the narrator. “I had succeeded in sneaking away from myself.”
In another chapter the narrator takes her little daughter, who has a certain phobia to an analyst. When the mother questions her the girl coolly says, “I can’t tell you.” Noiville continues: “Her voice was assured, her words detached. Every little silence was like a mountain crevasse, a fault that had to be jumped over with concentration to avoid falling into the seemingly bottomless icy hole.”
Although the word “gift” is used only in the English version (the title of the French original is La Donation), it’s hard not to associate that word with the German homonym, gift, which means “poison.” An insidious heritage has been transmitted.
In Noiville’s novel, scenes are presented in short, potent chapters in poetic prose, akin to the lines quoted above, that demonstrate the author’s ability to slice reality into tiny segments from various angles. Her perspicacious observations enrich the novel and breathe life and multidimensionality into her characters.
On the face of it, The Gift — superbly translated by Catherine Temerson — is a simple story: The relationship between daughter and her problematic mother and how the two come to terms with each other. But simple becomes complex with nuanced depictions of temperament and delicately described feelings that enhance the portraits of both women.
From the first page of The Gift to its last, astonishing line, this novel is a work of compressed poetry.


Isaac B. Singer : A life

Florence Noiville ( Hardcover: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2006. Paperback: The Northwestern University Press, 2008)

Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991) is widely recognized as the most popular Yiddish writer of the twentieth century. His translated body of work, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978, is beloved around the world. But although Singer was a very public and outgoing figure, much about his personal life remains unknown. In Isaac Bashevis Singer, Florence Noiville offers a glimpse into the world of this much-beloved but persistently elusive figure.

An astonishingly prolific writer, Singer was able to recreate the lost world of Jewish Eastern Europe and also to describe the immigrant experience in America. Drawing heavily upon folklore, Singer’s work is noted for its mystical strain. But he was also heavily concerned with the problems of his own day, and through his novels and stories runs a strong undercurrent of social consciousness. Unafraid to celebrate peasant life, Singer was often accused of being vulgar, yet he was also recognized for a deeply moral sensibility. And much like his work, Singer’s personal life was marked by contradiction: the son of a Rabbi, he struggled with warring currents of devotion and doubt. Solicitous of affection, he was also known for his philandering. Devoted to the notion of family, he abandoned his own son before the Second World War.

Drawing on letters, personal recollections, and interviews with Singer’s friends, family, and publishing contemporaries, Florence Noiville speaks to these paradoxes. More appreciation than comprehensive biography, her narrative is rich in detail about the people, places, and ideas that shaped Singer’s world. A remarkably vivid portrait of the man and his work emerges—a compassionate, vivid, and insightful vision of one of the twentieth century’s greatest storytellers.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
Nobel laureate I.B. Singer created a rich imaginary world during an emotionally austere childhood as the son of a rabbi absorbed in the Talmud and a cold, distant mother. His family's stint from 1908 to 1917 on Krochmalna Street in Warsaw's Jewish quarter, where his father arbitrated disputes, celebrated marriages and granted divorces, gave Isaac a front-row seat to the passionate dramas of daily life. This period was a fount of inspiration for Singer until his death in 1991. Far more complex than the media's image of the impish Jewish fabulist, Singer, as Noiville shows, was at once a calculating, charming womanizer and a depressive introvert who often alienated those closest to him, including his mentor and older brother Joshua, a bestselling novelist who invited him to America and got him his first commissions from the Jewish Daily Forward; Saul Bellow, whose brilliant translation of "Gimpel the Fool" was Singer's passport to fame; and his son, Israel Zamir, whom he abandoned in Poland at the age of five. Drawing on Singer's oeuvre as well as interviews with his son and various peers and collaborators, Le Monde literary critic Noiville paints a respectful, worthy portrait of the penniless immigrant who became a brilliant writer.

From School Library Journal
Despite a dearth of documentation for Singer's early years, Noiville presents a concise, lyrical biography of the celebrated writer. She uses the memoirs of his siblings, interviews with people who knew him or knew the area in which he grew up, his own writings, and critical reactions to those writings to flesh out her narrative. She neither lionizes nor demonizes her subject, leaving it up to readers to decide the significance of Singer's abandonment of his young son or his assiduous pursuit of the English-language audience. Temerson's translation is fluid and ably showcases Noiville's scholarship. In all, a tiny gem of literary biography.—Susan Salpini, formerly at TASIS-The American School in England

From The Jerusalem Post
I grew up hearing my father read Singer’s magnificent short stories aloud. Whatever his personal shortcomings, Singer clearly loved every one of his characters. Noiville’s book, translated from the French by Catherine Temerson, is eloquent, funny, and moving: a tribute to the art and importance of translation and to the life of Singer, who reached so many through devoted translators. And as Singer might say, a translation of a life may be as close as one human being can get to understanding another... - Aviya Kushner


I went to business school and I am sorry

Florence Noiville

Since their inception, business schools have prided themselves on educating the crème de la crème of financial and marketing professionals. However, it seems that the current economic collapse is due in large part to the triumph of the specific brand of hypercapitalism that graduates of these schools are educated to implement and to serve? Are business studies really adapted to address today's social and environmental concerns? What role do these studies play in the disorder of our daily lives?

Florence Noiville surveyed alumni and met with current business school students in order to find the answers to these questions. Her research taught her that in order to avoid repeating the mistakes that lead to the current economic crisis, business schools must be restructured. These schools must now take the problem by its root and give future leaders a new way to approach the issues of the common good, the stratification of wealth, and the actual purpose of the financial industry.

The crisis has given us the chance to effect real change. For if we refuse to change anything, we will continue to teach our elite to view the world according to an outdated and obviously flawed financial model.

Librio, 2012

Version poche de "J'ai fait HEC et je m'en excuse", mise à jour et augmentée d'un entretien inédit entre Florence Noiville et Martin Hirsch.

La Repubblica 27 january 2013

© Copyright Florence Noiville 2009-2013