Once upon the River Love
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|Format:||Paperback, 224 pages|
|Published In: ||United Kingdom, 26 August 1999|
In this brilliant, affecting novel, acclaimed Russian novelist Andrei Makine takes readers to the vast, remote forests of eastern Siberia to tell the story of Alyosha, Utkin, and Samurai, three boys on the verge of manhood. Isolated by history as well as geography, with only the passing lights of the Transsiberian train to assure them of an outside world, the three friends yearn for experiences their small village cannot provide. But after trekking by snowshoe to a cinema in the neighboring city, their whole world is changed forever as they watch the gorgeous spectacle of a motion picture starring the French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo and a cast of beautiful women. Written from the perspective of twenty years later, Once Upon the River Love follows the destinies of these three young idealists up to the present day, to the boardwalks of Brighton Beach and the jungles of Central America. Once Upon the River Love is a beautifully rendered novel that demonstrates Andrei Makine's remarkable ability to recreate the past with such precision that the present becomes all the more poignant.
Dreams of My Russian Summers, the first novel from Russian ‚migr‚ Makine to be translated into English from his adopted French, astonished readers on both sides of the Atlantic by applying the methods of Proust to exotic contemporary material: the love of French language and culture that a young Russian inherits, with terrible family secrets, from his grandmother. Published in France one year before Dreams, this sensuous, sentimental novel reveals more of the strengths and limitations of Makine's ardent traditionalism. The tale's central event is the arrival of a series of Jean-Paul Belmondo comedies at the local cinema in a small town in Siberia. The movies herald the end of the Soviet era for three local boys by giving them a taste of the WestÄfor tough, valiant "Samurai," the heroic gesture as an end in itself; for crippled Utkin, the writer's life as an escape from banality and sexual rejection; for Mitya, the beautiful narrator (nicknamed "Don Juan"), endless erotic adventures. The movie viewings coincide with Alyosha's first, doomed affair with a local prostitute and the initiation of the three youths into French literature (at the hands of Samurai's aristocratic aunt), but the films haunt them even after they grow up to leave the Soviet Union. Richly allegorical, Once Upon the River Love (the title is a pun on the Russian and French names of the Siberian river Amur) is self-consciously retrograde as literature, happy to borrow its concerns and techniques from old French masters. Beneath the artistic conservatism that Makine shares with his great contemporaries Solzhenitsyn and Brodsky lies that nostalgia for a dream-West that illuminates his deliberately mythologized Siberian landscape, where blizzards regularly snow in villages up to the chimneys and every step East or West takes one toward Asia or Europe: his Swann's and Guermantes' Ways. Makine has given American readers another unforgettable novel, which wears its exoticism on its sleeve, commands respect and defies imitation. (Aug.) FYI: Makine was the first writer to win France's highest two literary honors, the Prix Medicis and Prix Goncourt, for the same novel, Dreams of My Russian Summers.
The second book by Makine to be released here in as many years, this delicate, beautifully rendered little work reads like a precursor to the magisterial Dreams of My Russian Summers (LJ 7/97). Once again, French culture is the key, opening the door to the larger world for three teenaged boys living in the depths of Siberia near the river Amur, which "bears the same name as the god of love." It is not, however, the haute monde of turn-of-the-century France but a Jean Paul Belmondo movie that does the trick. Utkin, Samurai, and narrator Alyosha must trek 20 miles to the town where the movie is playing, but they undergo the journey dozens of times because, like everyone else in the area, they are fired up by the possibilities that Belmondo presents. The boys are already talking feverishly of love, and Aloysha finally takes the plunge, visiting a prostitute in a passage that is both poignant and hilarious even as he dreams of a mysterious Western woman he imagines traveling on the transcontinental train that roars past the town. The prose is somewhat overheated and the plotting somewhat episodic, but while this novel doesn't measure up to Dreams‘it couldn't‘it is nonetheless delightful on its own terms.‘Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
|Publisher: ||Penguin Books Ltd|
|Dimensions: ||19.0 x 12.0 x 1.0 centimeters (0.16 kg)|