Brief Lives that Live Forever

Written by Andrei Makine Geoffrey Strachan (trans.)
Review by Alan Fisk

This Russian author writes in French and has been translated into English (are you still with me?).

A middle-aged Russian looks back on his childhood in an orphanage in the 1960s, and on a succession of encounters through the years, against the background of the repressive Soviet system. In eight episodes, ranging from childhood memories to the present day, the unnamed narrator looks back on moments of brief love: a chance meeting with a schoolgirl, a disappointing reunion with a former fellow inmate of the orphanage, a conversation with a dying dissident artist, and a meeting with a woman who had known Lenin, among other encounters. Although I have not read the original, the translated text is luminous and haunting, with the eight memories giving an impression like rotating a jewel in one’s hands against the light and looking through different facets.

This novel has no action and little cheer, but I recommend it.