About

Suleiman author photo; credit Allen ReinerSusan Rubin Suleiman is the C. Douglas Dillon Professor of the Civilization of France and Professor of Comparative Literature, Emerita at Harvard University.

She was born in Budapest and emigrated to the U.S. as a child with her parents. She obtained her B.A. from Barnard College and her Ph.D. from Harvard University, and has been on the Harvard faculty since 1981.  She retired from full-time teaching in 2015, and is currently the C. Douglas Dillon Professor of the Civilization of France and  Professor of Comparative Literature, Emerita.

Suleiman is the author or editor of a dozen books and more than 100 articles on contemporary literature and culture, published in the U.S. and abroad. Her most recent book, The Némirovsky Question  (Yale University Press, 2016; French trans. La Question Némirovsky, Paris: Albin Michel, 2017) is about the Russian-French novelist Irène Némirovsky and issues of Jewish identity in 20th-century France.   Her other books include Crises of Memory and the Second World War; Authoritarian Fictions: The Ideological Novel as a Literary Genre; Subversive Intent: Gender, Politics, and the Avant-Garde, and Risking Who One Is: Encounters with Contemporary Art and Literature. She has edited and co-edited influential collective volumes, including French Global: A New Approach to Literary History and Exile and Creativity: Signposts, Travelers, Outsiders, Backward Glances.

In addition to her scholarly work, Suleiman is the author of Budapest Diary: In Search of the Motherbook, a memoir about Hungary. Her book reviews and articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The American Scholar, Moment Magazine, Tablet, and other newspapers and magazines.

Suleiman has won many honors, including France’s highest decoration, the Légion d’Honneur, which she received in 2018.  Earlier, the French government had decorated her as an Officer of the Order of Academic Palms (Palmes Académiques). She has held a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship, and several NEH Fellowships. She has been an invited Fellow at the Collegium Budapest Institute for Advanced Study in Budapest and at the Center for Advanced Study of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in Oslo, as well as the Texas A&M Institute for Advanced Study.  During the 2009-2010 academic year, she was the invited Shapiro Senior Scholar-in-Residence at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and in the fall of 2017 she was a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study of the Central European University in Budapest.

Suleiman’s latest project is a memoir, which she completed during the year of the Covid-19 pandemic.  In it she recounts her childhood in Budapest during World War II, then her family’s escape from Communist Hungary and their eventual settling in the United States.  To be published soon!

Since 2019, Suleiman has made her home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where her younger son and daughter-in-law, and her four grandchildren live.  Before the virus, she made frequent trips back to Harvard, and looks forward to doing so again when the pandemic is finally over.