Redemption by Friedrich Gorenstein

Redemption

Redemption by Friedrich Gorenstein

Russian Fiction

Original title – Iskuplenie

Translator – Andrew Bromfield

Source – personnel copy

 

I move further east after my Croatian return and to the Russian Library series of books I have been buying these the last year or so. I love the covers and they are bringing out a mixture of lost classics and modern classics. Here we see the exiled Russian writer Friedrich Gorenstein a Jewish writer whose father was arrested and Shot by Stalin. He worked as a screenwriter and novelist he is maybe best known as the screenwriter of Solaris the well known Russian film by Andrei Tarkovsky. He finally left Russia in the late seventies and his books came out. The title of the book is redemption in English but atonement in German as the Russian word has meaning between the two words.

It was Sashaenka’s first ball. She had been reparing for it a long time, a whole week, since got her an invitation through the local special trade committee. Sashaenka had washed every day with a special war-trophy lotion brought at a stret market, wound curlers into her hair, rubbed eau de cologne into her skin and , for  the first time in her life, painted her lips in a little cupid’s bow and powdered her cheeks. And now there was Genral Batunuya’s son whispering something to his friends and glancing furtively at sashenka’s calves in their covering of cream lisle cotton. Sashaenka sttod in line, shwed her invitation,and reciever a present at a competitive market price.

THe Ball she tried hard to perfect fall but all wasn’t perfect fore her in this imperfect post war soviet world.

The books open in 1945 the war is over and the New year is happening and in the town of Berdichev, a town which is now  in  Ukraine Sashenka a sixteen year girl who has end up there when her father a pilot in the war died and her mother brought to this mainly Jewish town at the time. A young woman that has managed to avoid the Nazis and crippling illness to now as the war ends to start blooming into a woman. She runs off to a Ball but is shocked when a fellow guest at the ball points out the lice on her clothes and she blames her mother. But she hates the fact that her mother has a new lover she is trying to get her family by but the daughter doesn’t see this? She then decides to denounce her mother as a petty thief. Whilst at the same time she has a new man in tow. So when she meets a young Jewish Lieutenant August that has come home to bury his family she helps him find his family from the unmarked graves they are in to give them a decent burial. What will happen to her and her mother? and her relationship in this new post-war Soviet era!

“My mother” Sashenka wrote,”is a pilferer of Soviet property. I repudiate her and now wish to be only the daughter of my father , who died for the motherland …” Sashenka tried to forcefully, but the pen  splashed and scratched, and although the paper was lined, like in a school exercise book, the letters jumped about and the lines or writing either crept upward or curvred downward.Sashenka simply couldn’t think of what to write about Vasya,Olga, and the master of ceremonies, Shethought it would be a good thing to put something in about Batiunya, and Markeev, and Zara with her gold pendants, and in genral everyone who had laughed at Sashaenka and mocked her.

The aftermath of the ball she lashes out like many a ytoung woman at first with her mother , but could have been others!

This is a tough book that has the brutal nature of war at its heart from the loss of a father and the loss of parents in August case both due to the war. The daughter trying to come of age but also like most kids of the age she hates that her mother seems to have forgotten her dead heroic father. The story in the book echos part of his own story he was a boy who with his mother fled across to Uzbekistan. But she died mirroring the illness that Sashenka had. He also was brought by family to the town the book is sent in post-war so would have known the atmosphere he paints of hunting out those that helped the German in the war with neighbor turning on neighbor as the war years start to turn on each other as the dark daily world of the Soviet life starts to come clear in those early weeks of 1946 as the wounds are still raw. A powerful book and one that shows how good these Russian library choices are!

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Rapture by Iliazd

Rapture

Rapture by Iliazd

Russia fiction

Original title – Voskhishchenie

Translator – Thomas J Kitson

Source personal copy

I’ve been admiring the Russian library series since they came out a couple of years ago they have such eye-catching cover and the books themselves as works of Russian literature are all very interesting. So I decided earlier this year to buy a few of them this was the first. Iliazd or Illa Zdanevich as he was known . A Georgian born Russian exile writer. His own life is as interesting as his novel is, He was an Exile in Paris a writer this was his second novel and came out in 1930. But he also an Avant-garde artist a to the likes of Picasso, Chagall, Miro, and Max Ernst. He has a number of solo exhibitions at the Pompidou and Museum of modern art after he died. There is a great intro to the book that describes him in late life living with thirty cats and in a huge sheepskin coat herding these cats as he took them out around Paris. There is a great intro I recommend reading it

So on account of her useless qualties, because of the mountains, and thanks to the back of beyond, Ivlita’s lot was becoming more complicated and confused, although thus far she herself suspected nothing. And for that reason, the girl’s exostence remained just as dull and even as ever nothing more than a reflection of the seasons.

Ivlita is considered useless but is a real beauty in Laurence’s eye a simple man himself.

This is a story of one man’s story that of a draft dodger Laurence. A man that has tried to avoid the draft by going on the run in the Highlands as he heads on the way he finds a beautiful woman Ivlita in a wooden house and decides to liberate her as he sees it. They end up in the cave in the mountains but over time he is drawn into a gang of revolutionaries that make him do increasing acts of violence like casting bombs. He is a man that has been caught by there dreams. But is it his battle of there battling he went on the run to escape violence and he worships the young now pregnant women he brought to the hills as he heads back to the city to get money and do the attacks but is he with the right women is he doing the right thing?

Laurence was wary of being rousted out during the night, since he couldn’t be certain the highlanders weren’t concealing beneath their courtesy a resolution to assault him, But he needed to sleep inordinately after blundering two whole days in the woods and drinking so much now; he was also taking account of the acute possibility that gendarmes would be searching the vicinity for him (while, as it happens, the townsfolk had swiftly headed home after the murder).The cretins stable, then, was an impregnable fortress.

Laurence finally arrives in the highlands but is still looking over his shoulders to see if he gets caught ?

This is an interesting novel. It is a simple adventure story in a way a man on the run falls for a woman is a classic adventure story line. His acts of robbery and terrorism and daring adventure have echoes of earlier books. For me, Buchan and those writers of early spy fiction from Conrad and Le Queux came to mind. Laurence is a sort of early anti-hero caught up in what is around him like Hanny in 39 steps. there is something of an old-fashioned tale there. But there is an undercurrent of a writer trying to experiment. Here dead characters returning almost a sense of that magical nature of the countryside a sort of early magic realism which is maybe a nod to his artistic world. Then there is the exile question of what the revolution brought. to a simple man like Laurence got caught up on the run but is lead into the frontline by others in the gang!! then there is also a sense of speed in the writing no full stops is something you as the story rolls like a juggernaut what will happen to Laurence in the end? An interesting book from a writer that was banned in the Soviet Union now finally in English after eighty years. I love the cover of this book and all in the series such an eye-catching design.

Have you read a Russian library book?

June 2019
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