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Friday, April 24, 2015

Dreams of My Russian Summers by Andrei Makine

I am going to Russia this summer and I want to spend a little bit of time reading novels that take place in Russia.  I had a wonderful ride out to a dinner in a car stuffed with friends (many of whom I spent the evening talking to, despite knowing that we would also have an hour ride home together.  Sometimes you just don't have enough time with the people you really like, and it takes a car ride to really remedy that deficiency).  One thing that came out of the evening was a recommendation to read this book.

It is not an easy read, nor is it lyrically written.  What it does have is what I think of as the Russian experience.  There are tales of great imagination that are told against a backdrop of extreme violence and cruelty.  Makine, who fled the Soviet Union in 1987 when he was thirty, tells the semi-autobiographical tale of a young man who, along with his sister, spends summers in Siberian steppe country with his French grandmother, Charlotte Lemonnier.  She shares a world of memory with the children, memory of France prior to WWII and of Russia furing and after the war.  In the world of Soviet Communism, Charlotte's very Frenchness is deeply suspicious.  Her differentness does not save her from the horrors of war, but it does excuse her from some of the provincial niceties that a babushka would ordinarily be expected to do.  The book is not an easy read, despite it's petite size, but an entree into the complexities of Russians.

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