Tag Archives: Andrei Makine

Book Diva Review: Dreams of My Russian Summers

dreams of my russian Dreams of My Russian Summers: A Novel, by Andrei Makine is a masterpiece! Makine reveals worlds within worlds, seasons within seasons that captivate and intrigue the reader with his poetic-like prose and brilliant writing, evoking impressionistic word-paintings.

…and the shadow of a distant and dreamy sweetness veiled your gaze, refined your features, and caused the soft light of bygone days to hover over the snapshot.”

The narrator’s grandmother, Charlotte, has given him a taste of the world that he might not have otherwise known, during summers spent with her in the desolate, harsh and unrelenting steppes of Russia. Within the tapestry of war and history, love and loss, the fabric of Charlotte’s stories affect the young man’s childhood memories and future dreams as he grows into manhood. He views her native country (France) through her eyes and remembrances, through the surreal and magical words she uses to instill the beauty her country holds for her, the disappointments and reality colorized through time.

An unnamed city is depicted with creative flair and strong word-visuals, to the point this reader almost felt she was there. Family dynamics is written with two points of view that separate and conjoin, once again. The teenaged boy versus his grandmother and their hardships in a world fraught with strife is a compelling story. The struggle for identity and home is a strong issue, and Makine conveys it well.

A young man’s life and hopes are woven with the strong fibers of memory and longing. Charlotte brings him hope and joy, within the decades that are sewn with war-torn patches, like quilts, in the threads of time. Her stories, always told in French, that unfold the history of the decades bring them both the world in pastel tones, a world made bearable through Charlotte’s use of language. She brings him a sense of contentment and sense of serenity in a world ravaged by war, terror, rape, murder, politics, and life lived under harsh conditions.


Makine’s
extraordinary ability to capture historical events and combine them into a magical and beautiful story is a testament to his brilliance. He transcends images and memories of times past with illumination, intensifying our senses. Within the epic novel, he weaves dreams and realities often on the border of one crossing over into the other, always with insight and sensitivity, always with a sense of what was necessary in order to cope and survive.

I highly recommend Dreams of My Russian Summers: A Novel, by Andrei Makine!

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Requiem for a Lost Empire

requiem for a lost Requiem For A Lost Empire, by Andrei Makine is another one of his incredible novels. True to Makine’s magical writing style, writing of war and love, horror and destruction, identity and discovery, pain and loss, he has brought us another momentous novel. This is the second book in a trilogy, and having read them out of order, makes no difference on the impact the story line has (I read this book of the trilogy, third). The book flashes back and forth from decade to decade, from the 1920s to the 1980s.

We follow the narrator (who is a Russian doctor) as he writes to an unnamed woman. The narrator changes identities after becoming disillusioned with the war’s outcome, and becomes a KGB spy. He falls in love with his female partner, and therein begins a journey through history. He loses contact with her through historical events beyond his control, and constantly tries to locate her, and finding her becomes an obsession to him. We are on his journey with him, as he tries to find meaning, and as he searches for her throughout the decades.

The narrator tries to come to terms with his ancestry, and longs to find the truth of his existence, and the truth behind their love.

His grandfather, Nikolai, deserted the army during the 1917 Russian Revolution, and found love and joy in a rural forest village. His son, Pavel, fought in World War II against the Nazis, joined the KGB as a spy, and in the end, disillusioned, returns to the same small village as his father. In that village, the narrator was born, and his first memories of life and love ended, and a new life began with a white-haired woman.

Love of land, serenity and life’s simplicity are evoked with amazing clarity and word visuals that sweep across landscape and time, summer and winter.

The saga reminded me of Doctor Zhivago in some aspects, yet the similarities are subtle. Makine brings his own excellence to the writing field, exploring war, in-depth, and how the succeeding generations often repeat what their ancestors have done, without being aware of the similarities. It might be a different generation, but the cycle continues. Makine demonstrates that with brutal honesty, baring the souls and emotions of his characters, yet brings sensitivity to them and their situations, at the same time. His ability to illuminate time and place, with vivid tones does not diminish historical and critical events within the confines of the familial stories. Requiem for a Lost Empire is a compelling novel, and the story is intense, poignant and filled with amazing word images, images so vivid that one’s senses are consumed by them. The book is panoramic in its imagery, and the prose is poetic and often surreal.

If you like a sweeping saga which spans three generations of a family over an 80-year period, an intense novel, an insightful and powerfully written novel that is illuminated with brilliance and beauty, then Requiem for a Lost Empire is a book for you!

Andrei Makine is, by far, his own person, and his writing has often been compared to the most noteworthy and classic authors, such as Tolstoy, Proust, Gogol, and Pasternak. His writing shouldn’t be compared to theirs, but be perceived solely as his own works of brilliance. In my opinion, his novels will continue to stand the test of time, classic works in their own right, and Requiem for a Lost Empire is no different.

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Book Diva Review: The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme

the earth and sky of The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme, by Andrei Makine, translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan, is a vividly depicted story.

Makine’s novel is the third in a trilogy of books, that are more or less biographical. Time and place are innate and important qualities in his romantic and almost surreal writing.

The SPAN OF THEIR LIFE TOGETHER is to be so short that everything will happen to them for both the first and the last time.”

Those words encompass the very essence of the story line. Makine is brilliant with his visuals that flow through the pages with the utmost of illumination, grace, insight and intensity. He is a master story teller of romance, longing and loss, and this book is no exception.

A French fighter pilot named Jacques Dorme, and a French nurse, named Alexandra meet in Stalingrad, in May 1942, and begin a short-lived physical affair, but one that lasts indefinitely in their hearts. Through the destruction and devastation of Stalingrad, and within its ruins, their love story begins. They have little time together, but those moments and memories bind their hearts eternally. Jacques Dorme leaves for Siberia, where he eventually pilots a plane.

Before their meeting, Dorme was a prisoner of war in the east. The narrator of the book, was somewhat imprisoned, also, both emotionally and physically.

The narrator is a Russian war orphan, who has received comfort from a woman named Alexandra, and what he feels is similar to parental love, through the interactions of a weekly Sunday visit to her ruined home. The visit is his weekly outlet from the confines of the orphanage. He has been told that she knew his parents. There he manages to break through a wall, into a vacant apartment filled with books, and manages to teach himself French, the native language of both Jacques and Alexandra.

The narrator is eventually exiled to France, and from there, decades later, tries to find his roots by returning to his motherland in Russia. The narrator’s story and life is supposedly taken largely from Makine’s own life experiences.

Andrei Makine’s brilliant and beautiful prose is set against a harsh background, both in its indigenous, environmental elements and the elements of love and war. His metaphors for yearning and loss are vivid images that tear at the emotions of the reader . His work is masterful. I recommend The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme to every one.

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Book Diva Review: The Life of an Unknown Man

the life of an unknown man Although the novel, The Life of an Unknown Man, by Andrei Makine, is 208 pages long, its short length does not lessen the compelling story line.

The novel brings the reader an extremely well written descriptive of Russia, seen through two main characters. The first one is a man named Ivan Shutov, a Russian who has been living in Paris for about twenty years. He is a writer, aspiring to write that epic novel, a novel similar in style to Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy. He lives and breathes the classic Russian authors, and compares his current life experiences to their writings. He is wrapped in dreams and fantasies, and the essence of life revolves around Russian Literature. He values their ideals that he reads within the pages of their books.

Shutov is approximately fifty-years old, and old enough to be the father of his former lover, Lea. After many discussions and arguments (some over Chekhov) he is brutal in his verbal attacks on her opinions. After a while, she became disgusted and fed up with him and his lack of emotional commitment. She left him for a man her own age, and Shutov has great difficulty dealing with her departure. He can not stop thinking about her, and obsesses on her. He feels a void, and decides to take a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, to revisit his past, a past he has glorified in his memories, and one he has not viewed realistically.

When he arrives, he sees that things are not what they were in the past. Communism reared its ugly head with brutal force to the Russians. The country has gone through an upheaval, and it has collapsed. The citizens have become westernized in their thinking, and become materialistic in their approach to life. This attitude has a shattering affect on Shutov.

While there he meets up with a former lover named Yana. They had a fling while students, and she is not the same person he knew. How could she be after living through the changes and events her country has gone through. He encounters an elderly man named Georgy Lvovich Volsky, living in a room within Yana’s apartment complex. Yana and her son have told him that Volsky doesn’t speak, and is paralyzed. To make a long story short, Volsky does eventually speak to Shutov.

And, the tales he tells are incredible accounts of the love of his life, Mina, and of his experiences during Leningrad’s siege, and his military service to the country. The times were horrific, horrendous moments were prevalent, food was scarce, life was lived by barely hanging on. Volsky’s story is vividly depicted by Makine, and nothing is spared in his relaying it.

Throughout the pages, the reader can not help but grasp the devastation and the brutality of the times. One also gains a sense of the individual, as a separate being, one who has weathered all the forced events. The reader also gains insight into the philosophy of the individual as part of the whole in the connection of community, the military and the country. The title, The Life of an Unknown Man is very fitting, within these aspects. Makine is brilliant in displaying both modes within the pages.

He also makes the reader ponder the worth of a human. Volsky went through so much, yet he was not validated for his efforts. He went unrecognized in an environment that was not conducive to acknowledging accomplishments. The time periods that encapsulated his life achievements seemed almost for naught. Yet, Volsky did not view it that way. He saw beauty in nature, in music, in theater, and constantly saw the possible out of what others saw as impossible. Volsky saw his life in a positive manner, and saw his participation as his allegiance to Russia.

Makine’s message was clear, his prose depicted with visual clarity. The suffering and the lives lost were a minute part of the entirety. The sentimentality of the past can hinder people in ways they can not imagine. It was a harsh lesson for Shutov. The past caught up with him, and he was able to distinguish the reality of the Russia he had left behind, and the reality of the Russia it had evolved into.

I applaud Andrei Makine for his brilliance and for his magnificent writing. The novel was a fascinating look at the history of what was then known as Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and an intriguing read. He took me back to eras of harshness, and within the story line I found illuminations of hope resonating, strongly. I recommend The Life of an Unknown Man to everyone.

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