A tense "Siberian Western" set in the inhospitable, boundless Russia taiga at the height of the Cold War
On the far eastern borders of the Soviet Union, in the sunset of Stalin's reign, soldiers are training for a war that could end all wars, for in the atomic age man has sown the seeds of his own destruction.
Among them is Pavel Gartsev, a reservist. Orphaned, scarred by the last great war and unlucky in love, he is an instant victim for the apparatchiks and ambitious careerists who thrive within the Red Army's ranks.
Assigned to a search party composed of regulars and reservists, charged with the recapture of an escaped prisoner from a nearby gulag, Gartsev finds himself one of an unlikely quintet of cynics, sadists and heroes, embarked on a challenging manhunt through the Siberian taiga.
But the fugitive, capable, cunning and evidently at home in the depths of these vast forests, proves no easy prey. As the pursuit goes on, and the pursuers are struck by a shattering discovery, Gartsev confronts both the worst within himself and the tantalising prospect of another, totally different life.
Translated from the French by Geoffrey Strachan
A powerful story of metaphysical adventure. - L'Express
A thrilling manhunt through the taiga. - Liberation
As good as Stendhal or Tolstoy . . . I would rather read him than anyone else now writing - Literary Review.
One of the significant novelists of our age. - Observer.
Makine packs great steppes-full of history into compact, bejewelled boxes of prose. - Independent.
Makine's wonderful economy of image and phrase convey far more than one could think possible about the Russian soul. - Daily Telegraph.
Masterful . . . Makine has been justly compared with Tolstoy, but here I think the better reference is Joseph Conrad. - Spectator.
Pleasingly clever stuff . . . has an ambition of romantic grandeur that feels genuinely, soulfully Russian. - Sunday Times.
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.