THE LIFE OF AN UNKOWN MAN BY ANDREI MAKINE

SOURCE – REVIEW COPY FROM SCEPTRE BOOKS

Anderi Makine is an ex pat Russian that lives in  paris and writes in french ,his books have all been translated by Geoffrey Strachen ,earlier in the year I reviewed Human love his african based novel ,this his latest translation into English  focus on his home in paris and former homeland russia ,it involves two writers one old one younger ,the younger  Shutov lives in Paris as an exile from Putin’s russia ,he is low on ideas and confidence in his writing career when he decides to return to his homeland ,to ST Petersburg .As with many homecoming it is a way to connect to his roots and hopefully spark a kernel of an idea ,whilst there he bumps into a Volsky an old guard from the second world war ,this guy has lived a life and like many a man of his age he likes to impart his story and luckily for Shutov A man caught in a writer’s block ,so over the rest of the book we hear this guys tale of woe and love ,the Siege of Leningrad is the main setting for a love that is doomed Mila his lover is a strong women in the image of those russian propaganda posters of the time ,this make Shutov think of his own love life a recent break up after a tv show performance and an earlier russian lover .from his halcyon days at college .the men both Gain something from this brief meeting .

On 21 June 1941 at the nord cafe ,which was very Popular with people of Leningrad ,without knowing it Volsky lived through the last hours of his old life ,the last day of peace .A moment of peace .A moment of bliss ,encapsulated in the taste of a cup of Hot chocolate .

the opening of the third chapter .

The book is what in the theatre would be a two hander ,like a russian waiting for Godot with a large dollop of russian history and politics thrown in for good measure .one can see the  main character Shutov as Makine him self and Volsky as his way of bridging russian history from the war to Putin’s russia ,from the toughness of the Stalin years to the present regime ,in a different way tough but still corrupt ,as ever Makine writing is slick he is without doubt one of the leading russian writers ,there has been noted in the opening note from Geoffrey Strachan that his french sometimes doesn’t sit quite right so it makes translation hard as he still uses some russian words .A great look at modern russia and a captivating war story in one a hard package to bet .

William Rycroft of Just william luck review the book a few days ago here is his take

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. amymckie
    Oct 21, 2010 @ 13:49:55

    Sounds interesting Stu. I haven’t read many Russian authors.

    Reply

  2. Nymeth
    Oct 21, 2010 @ 21:12:13

    “A Russian Waiting for Godot” is certainly an intriguing description – as always, thanks for highlighting a book I might not have heard of otherwise.

    Reply

  3. Trackback: OCTOBER ROUND UP « Winstonsdad's Blog
  4. Trackback: Brief loves that live forever by Andreï Makine | Winstonsdad's Blog

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