Confessions of a Fallen Standard-Bearer

Andrei Makine, Author Arcade Publishing $21.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-55970-529-5
""It was all so simple. Crystal clear... "" begins this chronicle of the ebb in the fortunes of Marxist true believers. However, life in post-WWII Russia, where Makine's slim, impressionistic novel is set, is anything but simple or crystal clear. The story revolves around the families of two soldiers, Yakov Zinger and Pyotr Yevdokimov. Both are disabled and aging now, the butt of jokes with their endless recounting of the horrors and triumphs of the war as seen through Russian eyes. The narrator, Yevdokimov's unnamed son and a future writer, tells of his childhood in a town near Leningrad where a Young Pioneer spirit flares up out of the ashes of WWII. Loitering near the mysteriously dark water-filled ""Pit,"" and the ""Gap,"" an apex of the triangular courtyard where the locals reminisce and play dominoes, the narrator listens to his elders' war stories, about Byelorussia, American GIs, the German-Polish border. At first, he and his friends are bursting with enthusiasm to launch ""the age of radiant years"" globally, bringing Britain and ""the Soviet Socialist Republic of America"" into the Communist fold. But obsessed by the threat of atomic war and disturbed by murmurings about Stalin's rampages, community rage prompts first a vicious assault on the bones of German soldiers and then the definitive break-up of the domino game. The narrator says good-bye to his best friend (who he will never see again) and heads off to the Suronov military academy. This is an early work of Makine's, written before Dreams of My Russian Summers and published in France in 1992. In the genre of confessional novel, it is at once a reconstruction of a certain postwar Russian milieu and a bittersweet paean to the Communist past; above all, it's a passionate ode to political dreaming even as the perceived oppressor changes. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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