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The Life of an Unknown Man by Andreï…
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The Life of an Unknown Man

by Andreï Makine

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Een Russische schrijver, die in Parijs woont, hoopt in Sint-Petersburg met een oude vlam de teleurstelling van een op de klippen gelopen relatie door te spoelen. Daar komt niets van in huis, maar de kennismaking met de oude Volski, die hem aan de hand van zijn levensverhaal de geschiedenis van het communistische Rusland vertelt, en het sterk daarmee in contrast staande nieuwe materialistische vaderland dat hij leert kennen via de viering van driehonderd jaar Sint-Petersburg blijken heilzaam te zijn voor zijn getormenteerde ziel. De lectuur wordt een beetje bedorven door de nogal programmatische structuur van het boek, hetgeen nog versterkt wordt door de zeer nadrukkelijke en overbodige manier waarop Makine emoties pleegt te beschrijven. ( )
  joucy | Mar 2, 2013 |
Here is another unobtrusive masterpiece by Andrei Makine, but a masterpiece nevertheless. He never ceases to amaze me by his lyrical, touching prose, as well by his acute perceptiveness of the world in front of him. No matter what protagonist he chooses, I find myself always being able to relate to him - an uncanny reality.

Here a Soviet emigre, writer, slightly embittered by lack of recognition and disappointing private life (the latter a tad superfluous prelude, if you ask me - as if belonging to another book...), on a spur of the moment goes back to Russia (not Soviet Union any more) "... as a nostalgic pilgrim" after a 20 year absence and finds himself in "a geyser of energy, held in check for a long time. The frenzied search for a new logic to life after the highly logical madness of dictatorship.... there is also a confusion of styles, the disappearance of a way of life and barely the first babbling of a new manner of being... modernity gone mad, a mixture of American razzle-dazzle and Russian clowning". But in the midst of it all, he comes across a unique old man who tells him the story of his life, thus becoming the second protagonist... This life of the unknown man - during Leningrad blockade, war, labor camps and post-Stalin times - is so gripping in its poignant reality that it makes an irreversible impression on our writer. ( )
  Clara53 | Jul 28, 2012 |
I really loved Makine's Dream of My Russian Summers, finding it a very lyrical, visionary book. His new book comes close but never quite reaches the standard of the earlier book. What drags it down is the first part that focuses on the failed romance of the protagonist, Shutov. Like most May/December romances, it goes belly up, and the reader must learn all about it. Once Shutov goes off to rediscover Leningrad and discovers an old pensioner parked in the bedroom of a new luxury apartment, things begin to hum. That part of the book should have gone on much longer. At less than 200 pages, this book is well worth the time it takes to read it. ( )
1 vote kblinn | Jun 23, 2012 |
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"Shutov, a disenchanted writer, revisits St. Petersburg after twenty years of exile in Paris, hoping to recapture his youth. Instead, he meets Volsky, an old man who tells him his extraordinary story: of surviving the siege of Leningrad, the march on Berlin, and Stalin's purges, and of a transcendent love affair. Volsky's life is an inspiration to Shutov--because for all that he suffered, he knew great happiness. This depth of feeling stands in sharp contrast to the empty lives Shutov encounters in the new Russia, and to his own life, that of just another unknown man"--Back cover.… (more)

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