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.