Marokvia, Mireille 1908–2008

views updated

Marokvia, Mireille 1908–2008

(Mireille Journet Marokvia)


Born December 7, 1908, in France; came to United States in 1950; naturalized U.S. citizen, 1955; daughter of Gabriel (a teacher) and Genevieve (Lafond) Journet; married Artur Marokvia (a painter and illustrator), May 23, 1939 (deceased). Education: College Chartres, B.A.; Sorbonne, University of Paris, Certificat, 1938.


Home—Las Cruces, NM.


Teacher in Paris, France, and then translator, 1946-49; dressmaker and designer in United States, 1954-56.



Jannot, a French Rabbit, Lippincott (New York, NY), 1959.

Nenette, a French Goat, Lippincott (New York, NY), 1960.

Grococo, a French Crow, Lippincott (New York, NY), 1961.

Belle Arabelle, Lippincott (New York, NY), 1962.

A French School for Paul, Lippincott (New York, NY), 1963.


Immortelles: Memoir of a Will-o'-the-Wisp, MacMurray and Beck (Denver, CO), 1996.

Sins of the Innocent: A Memoir, Unbridled Books (Denver, CO), 2006.

Author of short stories, articles, and poetry for French periodicals prior to 1950; also did editing, and translating from the German, in France.


Author of several children's books published in the 1960s, Mireille Marokvia is perhaps best known for her two volumes of autobiography. In Immortelles: Memoir of a Will-o'-the-Wisp she chronicles her childhood in a small French village in the years before and during World War I. She writes of her mother's debilitating depressions, of seeing refugees evacuated from the front and soldiers recuperating from battle, and of her grandfather, who served as the mentor who kindled her interest in the wider world. The title refers to an episode in which Marokvia and her friend Odette were locked in a cemetery at night near the grave of a young classmate who had died of a heart ailment. Worse than seeing a ghost was the appearance of the frightening will-o'-the-wisp, which Marokvia describes as "a little blue light dancing among the graves." When Odette died in her twenties, Marokvia's youth and in- nocence ended. Reviewers admired Immortelles as a memoir of exceptional observation and insight. A writer for Publishers Weekly, noting the book's "lean but lyrical prose," observed that the memoir offers a "luminous evocation" of Marokvia's childhood.

Sins of the Innocent: A Memoir tells a much darker story. Here, Marokvia describes how she met and fell in love with a young German man, to whom she gives the pseudonym Abel, while studying at the Sorbonne in 1935, and followed him to Germany in 1939 when he was called back home to care for his aging mother. With that country at war with France and the Allies, Marokvia coped not only with the mundane difficulties of finding food and shelter, but also with the considerable suspicion of police and military authorities who questioned her motives for being in Germany. At the same time, Abel refused to support the Nazi regime, a position that increased the dangers that the couple faced. Many Germans, according to Marokvia in a passage quoted by WWD writer Lorna Koski, "knew what Hitler was. They were scared. There was a lot of fear; you did not dare not follow the rules." In this atmosphere of fear and difficulties, the couple managed to survive, moving after the war to the United States, where Abel (Artur Marokvia) established a successful career as an illustrator.

Mireille Marokvia's account of her German years met with much critical enthusiasm. David Pitt, writing in Booklist, observed that, despite the cruelty and violence of some of its subject matter, Sins of the Innocent is distinguished by its "elegant" language and "deeply affecting" emotional content. Many readers found its perspective—daily life in Germany during the war—original and surprising, noting how fascinating it was to read about people scraping together the fixings for a dinner party, or arranging a vacation, in the midst of war. Noting that Marokvia possessed "pluck and luck," New York Times contributor William Grimes observed that she "played her cards shrewdly, … steering clear of trouble and patiently observing with a perceptive but not unsympathetic eye. Unlike her husband, Ms. Marokvia could find it in her heart to like Germany and Germans, the decent ones." Jaime Engle, writing in Library Journal, hailed Sins of the Innocent as a "passionate, straightforward, and enthralling" memoir.



Booklist, September 15, 1996, Mary Carroll, review of Immortelles: Memoir of a Will-o'-the-Wisp, p. 204; August 1, 2006, David Pitt, review of Sins of the Innocent: A Memoir, p. 28.

Durango Herald (Durango, CO), July 4, 2006, Patricia Miller, "Trapped in Nazi Germany."

Library Journal, September 1, 2006, Jamie Engle, review of Sins of the Innocent, p. 157.

New York Times, September 6, 2006, William Grimes, "With Pluck and Luck, Surviving a Fascist Nightmare," p. E11.

Publishers Weekly, September 9, 1996, review of Immortelles, p. 75; July 17, 2006, review of Sins of the Innocent, p. 148.

WWD, December 15, 2006, Lorna Koski, "Rider of the WWII Storm," p. 14.


Bookslut, (November 7, 2007), Colleen Mondor, review of Sins of the Innocent.

Curled up with a Good Book, (November 7, 2007), Karyn Johnson, review of Sins of the Innocent.

Elizabeth Merrick Web site, (November 7, 2007), Emberly Nesbitt, review of Sins of the Innocent.