The Life of an Unknown Man
Andrei Makine, Geoffrey Strachan
‘It is impossible to exaggerate the power of this short, unbearably poignant novel.’ Mail on Sunday
‘A bold and elegant novel’ Helen Dunmore, Guardian
‘A haunting story, beautifully told’ Viv Groskop, Observer
An extraordinary story of love and endurance during the Siege of Leningrad lies at the heart of a magnificent novel about Russia past and present, and the human condition.
One night in St Petersburg, two men meet, both adrift in the brash new Russia: Shutov, a writer visiting after years of exile in Paris, and Volsky, an elderly survivor of the Siege of Leningrad and Stalin’s purges. His life story – one of extreme suffering, courage and an extraordinary love – he considers unremarkable. To Shutov it is a revelation, the tale of an unsung hero that puts everything into perspective and suggests where true happiness lies.
strikingly visual...there are numerous searing images: a ragged choir singing on the front line of a snow-covered battlefield as lives are snuffed out around them; the moment of clarity when Volsky realises that the siege has changed Mila beyond recognition; the brief glimpse of a red-headed boy running after the car bearing away the closest thing he has to parents. * Wendy Ide, Times * Pulls the reader's emotions tight... It is a beautiful story * Peter Lansley, The Times August 6 2011 * deeply poignant * David Charter, The Times Saturday Book club * told with an intimacy made potent by Makine's lyrical, spare prose and Strachan's lucid translation... reconnects both the reader and the protagonist with Russia's blood soaked history, to startling effect * The Financial Times * Thrilling...Makine's most beautiful novel since Le Testament Francais * Le Figaro * His novels possess an eerie beauty invariably capable of surpassing the polemic...If he has an artistic kindred spirit it is most probably the South African Nobel laureate JM Coetzee * Eileen Battersby, Irish Times * A powerful, thoughtful book about the reliability of memory and how time mutates the meaning of both literature and history. * Tina Jackson, Metro * Seamlessly translated by Geoffrey Strachan, Makine's novel explores the attempt of two 'ordinary' people to transcend suffering and find life's essential meaning. It is difficult to write without sentimentality about such a subject, but Makine's intelligence and truthfulness dismiss banality. * Pamela Norris, Literary Review * 'Thoughtful and humane' * Kate Saunders, The Times * Makine is a consummate literary artist, but he is teacher as well as storyteller and, best of all, enchanter * Allan Massie, Scotsman * Like all his work, this novel has a wonderful flavour of a contemporary Checkhov with a splash of Proust...What starts out an intimate account bursts out into something more ambitious and universal. Ultimately it's a haunting story, beautifully told * Viv Groskop, Observer * Makine's laconic, sardonic portrait of the new Russia is laced with fury...a bold and eloquent novel * Helen Dunmore, Guardian * It is impossible to exaggerate the power of this short, unbearably poignant novel. It is both brutal and lyrical. Makine consciously invokes Chekhov but his grasp of history is positively Tolstoy-like in scale. I can't think of a writer who would be a more deserving recipient of the Nobel literature prize. * Mail on Sunday *
Book experts at your service
What are you looking for?