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Dreams of My Russian Summers: A Novel Paperback – May 15, 2011

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Editorial Reviews Review

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The first of Makine's four novels to appear in English, this autobiographical novel won the 1995 Prix Medicis for Best Foreign Fiction as well as France's prestigious Prix Goncourt, never before awarded to a non-Frenchman. Its coming-of-age story describes young Andrei's summers with his French grandmother Charlotte in the remote Russian village of Saranza. She came to Russia as a Red Cross nurse during World War I and fell in love with a Russian lawyer who went off to the front and later died a premature death from his war wounds. Charlotte and Andrei spend many summer evenings sharing her memories of turn-of-the-century Paris. As the adolescent Andrei struggles with his identity?is he Russian or French?he discovers that it was possible for Charlotte to live in such a foreign land and retain her "Frenchness" because of her love for her husband. Andrei finally reconciles these contrasting facets of his identity and eventually emigrates to France. Makine has fashioned a deeply felt, lyrically told tale. For all general library collections.?Lisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing (May 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611450543
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611450545
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 5.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #482,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on April 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
Andrei Makine, born in Siberia in 1957, has written an prose ode to his French grandmother, a memorable account of life in Communist Russia as lived by the woman who gave him joy, comfort, and permission to dream of other worlds.
Each summer, Andrei and his sister visited this grandmother at the edge of Russia's vast steppes, and in the evening she told them stories of her past. Trapped in Russia after the revolution, she married a Russian and became a hardworking Soviet wife and mother - but she never lost the Frenchness of her utmost being. Slowly, over the years, she reveals harsh truths to young Andrei - but always with a lyrical and dreamlike quality that makes reading this book feel as though you're inhaling pure, gauzy poetry.
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48 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
Andrei Makine, the author of the lyrically, poetically gorgeous book, Dreams of My Russian Summers has been compared to Nabokov, Chekhov and Proust. Although these comparisons are meant to be flattering, they are grossly unfair, for Makine is an extraordinarily talented writer; an original, comparable to none.
The Russian summers of the title are those the narrator and his sister spent visiting their grandmother, Charlotte, in the town of Saranza on the eastern edge of the steppes.
Charlotte was born in France in 1903 and was subsequently trapped in Russia in 1921 at the outbreak of the revolution. She has lived an outwardly harrowing life, surviving famine, civil war, a rape by a band of thieves in the desert as well as the seemingly endless cold and snows of the Siberian winter.
When she finally marries a Russian soldier, he is twice reported dead at the Front and Charlotte escapes the German air raid with her two children, working as a nurse in army field hospitals. She is a woman who embraces the vastness of Russia, yet manages to keep her Frenchness alive.
And it is this Frenchness, this essence of all things French, that she wishes to pass on to her grandchildren. Apparently she succeeds. Standing on Grandmother Charlotte's balcony, young Makine looks out over the steppes as he comes to believe that he has found the secret of "being French." He says, "The countless facets of this elusive identity had formed themselves into a living whole." He finds this elusive identity of the living whole in stark contrast to his native Russia and longs for France and its "well ordered mode of existence.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
Time alters all things. The resultant changes can be decay, or tedium/passe, or at the opposite end of the spectrum the changes can be enhancing as a patina on fine wood. Andrei Makine's DREAMS OF MY RUSSIAN SUMMERS has happily acquired a literary patina that makes this brief but crystalline memoir of childhood even more of a joy to read after a few years on the shelf. Makine has the rare ability to weave wholly credible stories with unforgetable characters while at the same time measuring his prose like poetry. We are to suppose this is an autobiography, but it is far more than the journey of a nascent writer becoming a man. This is the essence of the Russian mind embellished by the great fortune of having early exposure to the beauty of France by means of recalling summers with Charlotte, a French born grandmother who nourishes the imagination and history of the writer to the point of delirium. All that has happened to and in Russia from the time of the Tsars to the present is presented in such a way that the grisly realities are always balanced by the homage to love of fatherland. Makine is a stunning writer and is still adding to our contemporary literature in ways that secure him a place among the geniuses of the word. Read and indulge your mind and your senses!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J. T. Meddle on September 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
On the surface, this is a simple story of a Russian boy growing up in a fantasy world, the details of which are provided by his French grandmother Charlotte. With her sewing on her lap, she spins stories of her Parisian youth, triggered by photographs and newspaper cuttings kept in an an old 'Siberian' suitcase. As a child, he is fascinated by this vividly-remembered world, a misty Atlantis, but as the novel unfolds, we realise the narrator is on a self-imposed alchemical quest. His task is to rework these memories told as stories into a form that is acceptable as literature, with nods to Proust, Chekhov and Knut Hamsun. Indeed, in the final part of the book, he finds his work on sale in a bookshop. We first follow Charlotte's journey through snow and ice, storm and flood, revolution and rape, then the writer's attempts to capture this magic in words, and of course he realises that "the essential is unsayable" and yet "the unsayable is essential." However, via increasingly intense moments of wonder, or as James Joyce would say, epiphanies, he experiences, for example, a vivid street-scene in Paris in 1910, and 'becomes' the three women in an old photo. Each event in Charlotte's life - and consequently his own - is a moment in time which may be lost forever unless it is vividly recalled and told to another, just as was done in the ancient story-telling tradition, before writing arrived. Makine's attempt to show us that literature is "perpetual amazement" is a success; the prose is certainly haunting, even poetic in places. Although this is an excellent translation, I suspect that the French language of the original allows for many more nuances and subtleties of meaning.Read more ›
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