Andrei Makine, Author, Geoffrey Strachan, Translator , trans. from the French by Geoffrey Strachan. Arcade $23.95 (207p) ISBN 978-1-55970-687-2

The Russian-born, Paris-based Makine vaulted into prominence with his fourth novel, Dreams of My Russian Summers, which won France's two most prestigious literary prizes. Since then, along with newer novels (most recently Music of a Life), a steady stream of his earlier work has appeared in English. Here, in his first published book, he provides an early glimpse at one of his recurring themes: the way the Soviet system prostituted—literally, in some cases—its most promising citizens. Ivan Demidov is an official Hero of the Soviet Union, a distinction he earned in the bloody defense of Moscow during WWII. Since then, he has worn the Hero's Gold Star, which earns him the respect of other citizens and the very practical right to extra rations at understocked grocery stores. For a while, he is celebrated in propagandistic television programs and asked to make patriotic speeches at elementary schools, until newer Heroes—from the fighting in Afghanistan—take his place. His talented daughter, Olya, is trained as an interpreter but sent to work at the governmental International Trade Center, where educated, attractive Russians "entertain" foreigners on whom the KGB wishes to spy. There are signs of inexperience here: Ivan and Olya are less fully realized characters than walking metaphors for Soviet exploitation. But present in this ably translated work are the seeds of the powerful social criticism that flowers in Makine's more mature novels. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 07/28/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 176 pages - 978-0-340-75127-5
Open Ebook - 217 pages - 978-1-62872-272-7
Paperback - 207 pages - 978-1-61145-878-7
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