A stunning drama of hope and disillusionment by 'a giant of global literature'
In World War II Ivan Demidov won the Red Army's highest award for bravery, that of Hero of the Soviet Union. But the decades following the War have brought him a life of hardship, alleviated only by his pride in this achievement and the modest privileges granted to War veterans. His daughter, Olya, on the other hand, born in 1961 and trained as a linguist, takes up a post as an interpreter at Moscow's International Business Center with access to a metropolitan lifestyle beyond the dreams of her parents. The only catch is that her job involves servicing foreign businessmen around the clock and passing on information about them to the KGB.
This is a stunning drama of disillusionment and tension between the two generations: the one that grew up under Stalin and saw its faith in him crumble and the one that grew up under Brezhnev, fixated on the glamour of the West and its material goods. Makine's vivid and authentic evocation of daily life in post-war Soviet Russia matches in its intensity the portraits of nineteenth-century Russian life offered by Dostoevsky and Tolstoy.
A remarkable novel enormously powerful - Daily Mail
An astonishingly mature and accomplished work What sets it apart is a wonderful and extraordinary ability to give us the very texture of life in a few spare sentences - Allan Massie, Scotsman
[It] carries the unmistakable stamp of historical and human truth subtle and powerful - Jessica Mann, Sunday Telegraph
Heartbreaking - Philip Delves Broughton, Daily Telegraph
It is only 163 pages ... but this is also nothing less than the history of Russia from the German invasion in 1941 to Gorbachev and glasnost ... Even in this starkly grim story Makine strains hard to believe that life, however ghastly, brings moments of tranquillity and peace. - Spectator
Makine's voice is authentic, his writing deft. He knows what he is writing about and does so with conviction ... shows the qualities that later won him both the Prix Goncourt and the Prix Medicis. - Financial Times
[A] beautifully realised tale palpable and deeply moving - Ink
Anyone struggling to understand the moral labyrinth that contemporary Russia has become would do well to read this book. - Independent on Sunday
Andrei Makine was born in Krasnoyarsk in Siberia in 1957, but sought asylum in France in 1987. While initially sleeping rough in Paris he was writing his first novel, A HERO'S DAUGHTER, which was eventually published in 1990 after Makine pretended it had been translated from the Russian, since no publisher believed he could have written it in French. With his third novel, ONCE UPON A RIVER LOVE, he was finally published as a 'French' writer, and with his fourth, LE TESTAMENT FRANCAIS, he became the first author to win both of France's top literary prizes, the Prix Goncourt and Prix Medicis. Since then Andrei Makine has written THE CRIME OF OLGA ARBYELINA, REQUIEM FOR THE EAST, A LIFE'S MUSIC, which won the Grand Prix RTL-Lire, THE EARTH AND SKY OF JACQUES DORME, THE WOMAN WHO WAITED, HUMAN LOVE and THE LIFE OF AN UNKNOWN MAN.