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Dreams of My Russian Summers: A Novel by…

Dreams of My Russian Summers: A Novel (original 1995; edition 2008)

by Andreï Makine

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1,100217,545 (3.82)44
Title:Dreams of My Russian Summers: A Novel
Authors:Andreï Makine
Info:Arcade Publishing (2008), Paperback, 241 pages
Collections:Read, Your library, Favorites

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Le Testament Français by Andreï Makine (1995)



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English (14)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  Finnish (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Lithuanian (1)  All languages (21)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Semi-autobiographical novel hinging on the life of the narrator's grandmother, Charlotte. From the balcony of her small cottage (or izba in Russian), the grandson hears her stylized memories of life in Paris during the Belle Époque period. The writing is elegant, as if from the period, but is delivered as if in a reverie. It comes across as so oblique that I simply could not find a sustained connection to the story. References to tyranny, great societal change, the Great War, are all glancing - unfortunate because the era of early 20th C Russia is a fascinating one. A bit too much emphasis on style, not enough on engagement. ( )
  JamesMScott | Apr 26, 2015 |
My expectations were raised having read "The life of an unknown man" earlier this year, but this was just as impressive. ( )
  bodachliath | Nov 11, 2014 |
I'm glad I took the advice of a Goodreads reviewer and stuck with it because it did take off after Chapter 5 and became rather compulsively readable. I was struck by how it compared with A Very Long Engagament, they made interesting side by side reads.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
The Goncourt prize in France seems to be drawn to Russian writers who can write French better than many French natives.

In 1938 it was awarded to Henri Troyat (né Lev Aslanovitch Tarasov) for his L’Araigne. He later became a Member of L’Académie Française. In 1956 and again in 1975 it was awarded to Romain Gary (né Roman Kacew). And more recently, in 1995, André Makine (a.k.a. Gabriel Osmonde) received this prestigious prize.

Had Nabokov been the son not of an Anglophile but of a Francophile, we would probably have another example.

Le Testament français is my first novel by Makine. It is also his first novel. I am grateful to Fionnuala who drew it to my attention.

This book is autobiographical in a roundabout way since it is in the narration of his own early life that the narrator focuses on the account of someone else’s life, the life of his grandmother. And it is in so doing that the narrator can eventually find himself.

This book has appealed to me in many ways. First and foremost there is its language. Le testament is one of those books that leave a taste in your mouth because its language is so beautiful that you want to detain its words for a little while longer and savor them. The tale is that Makine, when seeking to publish his work in France, had to invent a fictional translator because editors could not believe that such splendid writing in French could be authored by a foreigner.

The second appeal is that ever since I read in my teens, and reread later on, [b:Le Grand Meaulnes|794779|Le Grand Meaulnes|Alain-Fournier|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1178422620s/794779.jpg|51583] by Alain-Forunier, I have developed a weakness for stories narrated by a young person in the French provinces and taking place either just before WWI or during the interwar period. They embody for me, fully, the meaning of the word nostalgia, even if this perfect nostalgia is extraneous to me since neither the period nor the geography belong to my lived experiences.

And finally there is the added theme of the mixed nationalities as a determinant in the formation of the self. These correspond to two countries standing at opposite cultural poles, and yet with many historical links. The young narrator is torn between the dreamed France with its scenes of sophisticated and exquisite Salons and cultural cafés or delicious countryside, and the tangible and rough Russia in the process of transforming itself into a Stalinist state, with its harsh scenes of severe poverty, disturbing cruelty and inhospitable steppes.

In this search for the self through the memories of someone else, the young narrator will try to collect cues from all possible sources and gradually finish the puzzle of his existence, even if some of these hints insist, like it so often happens with old photographs, to remain stubbornly mute.

Le testament français is a cherishable read and I recommended it to any lovers of Proust. Not only is Marcel Proust mentioned twice in the novel as the epitome of the dreamed refined Paris, but the Proustian themes of memories and self searching are consciously explored here again. This time they are given the new element of the divergent pull from both the Russian and French cultures. It is as if this novel were a deliberate tribute to Proust and his French writing, as felt by a Russian soul.



It has been translated into English (truly)as [b:Dreams of My Russian Summers|135158|Dreams of My Russian Summers|Andreï Makine|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347769108s/135158.jpg|130243]. It is noteworthy that they have chosen the other cultural pole, the Russian not the French, for the English title. I find that this translated title is too prosaic and has lost the evocative power of the original. I hope the rest of the translatio has captured the original lyrical tone.
( )
  KalliopeMuse | Apr 2, 2013 |
Charlotte Lemmonier, the book's main character, is an exquisitely special and complex person, and to know her would have been a highlight in anyone's life. So it was a treat for me to read this apparently semi-autobiographical book about her, and the author's relationship to her as a beloved grandson and the ways in which she affected his life.

The book sketched a set of dreamlike images of a time and place that I knew nothing about. In particular, for example, I was blown away by the author's vivid account of the proud, honor-bound urban street battle of the "samovars" of post-WWI and the subsequent mysterious disappearance of these supposed heroes. How logical that such events would have happened, even if I never could have imagined them in a thousand years on my own; and (fortunately) how completely alien they are to the contemporary zeitgeist.

However incompletely I comprehended it, I appreciated the author's lucid glimpse into the not-so-long-ago (and, possibly, still extant?) culture of the Russians and his depiction of its many (but by no means all) differences with the westernized First World. ( )
  EpicTale | Aug 9, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Andreï Makineprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Versteeg, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Marianne Veron and Herbert Lottman
For Laura and Thierry de Montalembert
For Jean-Christophe
First words
While still a child, I guessed that this very singular smile represented a strange little victory for each of the women: yes, a fleeting revenge for disappointed hopes, for the coarseness of men, for the rareness of beautiful and true things in this world.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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US title: Dreams of My Russian Summers
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684852683, Paperback)

Each summer, Andrei Makine's narrator and his sister leave the Soviet Union for the mythical land of France-Atlantis. That this country is a beautiful confabulation, a consolation existing only in his maternal grandmother's mind, makes it no less real. Though Charlotte Lemonnier lives in a town on the edge of the steppe, each night she journeys to a long-ago Paris, telling tales that the children then translate with their more Russian minds: "The president of the Republic was bound to have something Stalinesque about him in the portrait sketched by our imagination. Neuilly was peopled with kolkhozniks. And the slow emergence of Paris from the waters evoked a very Russian emotion--that of fleeting relief after one more historic cataclysm ..."

Makine's first novel is a singing tribute to the alchemy of inspiration, but it is no less familiar with the sorrows of reality. And it is only as he gets older that the narrator begins to piece together his grandmother's far more tragic past--her experiences in the Great War, the October Revolution, and after. Dreams of My Russian Summers is a love letter to an extraordinary woman (it's hard not to see the book as autobiographical) as well as to language and literature, which the boy turns to in avoidance of history's manipulations. It has all the marks of an instant classic.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:19 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A boy growing up in the Soviet Union of the 1960s and 1970s visits his French grandmother each summer, accumulating new tales of a Russia he never knew.

(summary from another edition)

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