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A Russian novel by Emmanuel Carrère

A Russian novel

by Emmanuel Carrère

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Mixed feelings. At the start, I see a sort of self-indulgent man writing a memoir of 3 years out of his life. I see some display of self-pity, am taken aback by a tawdry interlude at about the middle of the book... But then it becomes more poignant and serious. He is searching for an outlet for his grief and bewilderment over the loss of his grandfather who vanished in Paris in mysterious circumstances during German invasion in World War II. His grandfather being of Russian (Georgian) descent, the author is taking trips to Russia, first on a film assignment as a writer and then - as if drawn to his Russian roots through his mother and grandfather. In the meantime, he is having his own relationship problems... He is being looked at askance in a provincial Russian town, but finally, a Russian remarks with understanding: "You didn't just come here looking for our unhappiness, you brought your own along". The end is quite touching and sort of brings closure to the author's quest, and finally the title of the book and the front cover image start making sense. ( )
1 vote Clara53 | Mar 1, 2013 |
Une histoire complexe et auto-centrée, très proche sans doute de la réalité. L'exercice est bien mené mais très narcissique et un peu lassant en tant que tel. Une petite déception. ( )
  sinaloa237 | Dec 4, 2011 |
Spoilers. I was a little confused -- is this all true or is it partly a novel? The library I checked it out from classified it under Fiction. So...I liked some of this book really well & I thought some of it dragged & was irritating. i kind of speed-read-ed the last part because it was due at the library. I read every word but I forged through when I might have put it down if I had more time. Anyway. there are some major streams of this book. One is the discovery of a Hungarian prisoner of WW2 who is still sitting in a Russian institution for the mentally ill; he is identified & repatriated & our hero takes a film crew to go film the town. This is paired with the story of the narrator's grandfather, who was possibly insane and who never really made a success of his life and who was taken from his home & presumably killed as a collaborator. So the grandfather is a missing victim of WW2 too. And then there are the love affairs; the narrator has a girlfriend who he mistreats (emotionally) and that kinda goes on & on. There is a story w/in the story of his writing a dirty story to be published in Le Monde for her to read in an elaborately planned time & place, which falls through & he freaks out. The relationship thing got pretty dull, and the narrator is honest about his failings but they are pretty irritating anyway. Meanwhile they go back with the film crew to Russia and continue to follow things in the small town, including the relationship between Sasha & Anya, & then Anya's murder. I'm sure the 2 relationships mirror each other but I'd have to spend more time thinking about the book than I will to show how. Anyway, the stuff about the grandfather is interesting, & his relationship with his mother & uncle & family in relation to their history; the relationship with Sophie less so.
  franoscar | Dec 22, 2010 |
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Carrère’s priority of frankness has forged, from book to book, new ways of managing to be truthful, new ways of including the first person. [...] Even to call his recent books, as Carrère sometimes has, “nonfiction novels” doesn’t do much to clarify what makes them so unusual. Though it’s easy to notice the mechanics of a Carrère book — his characteristic inclusion of himself in the proceedings, his habitual inclusion of the process by which the book in question is being formed — what is genuinely original in Carrère’s work is the sensibility that animates those varied approaches, infused as it is with Carrère’s at-times-skeptical, at-times-maniacal way of thinking, his well-stocked intelligence, his spare, unfussily lyrical prose, his shameproof feed of uncensored interiority, his tireless storytelling energy and his unstinting attempts and, importantly, failures at maintaining sympathy for his subjects.
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Le train roule, c'est la nuit, je fais l'amour avec Sophie sur la couchette et c'est bien elle.
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In this memoir, acclaimed French novelist Carrère turns his critical eye on himself, recounting a disappointing documentary-film endeavor and a deteriorating romance. The discovery of a Hungarian prisoner of war brings Carrère to the tiny post-Soviet town of Kotelnich, but the dead-end story crushes his hopes for an interesting film project. Though rural Kotelnich is hopelessly dull, Carrère decides to stay. He'll cover the town's poor, hard-working residents, including a bodybuilder who helps reform wayward young men and a local girl aspiring to be the next Britney Spears. More important, he'll look into the mysterious disappearance of his Russian grandfather. Hand-in-hand in this torturous Russian saga is Carrère's romantic crisis with fiancée Sophie, a young woman in love with the author but so cowed by his moods and self-absorption that she took another lover and lied outrageously about it, compounding Carrère's emotional paranoia.… (more)

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