Requiem for a Lost Empire

Written by Andre Makine Geoffrey Strachan (trans.)

This novel spans three generations from 1917, when the narrator’s grandfather fought for the Red Army, through World War II, when his father fought on the Eastern Front against the Germans, until the 1980s, where the narrator is a young Russian army doctor. He is eventually recruited by an intelligence agent and becomes involved in revolutions around the globe. The final scenes of the book take the protagonist into the United States to seek revenge for the death of a woman he befriended early in his career as a doctor overseas.

Makine was born in Russia and immigrated to France in 1987. He is a critically acclaimed author who has written a number of books about his Russian heritage. This novel described the violence and misery of living under a controlled society that was Russia under Communism. The narrator’s father lived in fear from the government after he left the Red Army at the end of World War II. As a young boy, the narrator is forced to leave his home and is raised in an orphanage. The author uses flashbacks to tell the stories of both his grandfather and father, and how they lived during the Soviet repression.

This novel was originally written in French several years ago. I must admit I at first had trouble following the storyline and the cast of characters; I had to read the summary on the book jacket several times so that I could understand the various plots and characters. I feel the author did a commendable job in presenting his back stories without interrupting the flow of the plot. If you are looking for a page-turning thriller, this book is not for you. But if you have a taste for reading literary works by as master of language, I would highly recommend this book.