Saturday, September 26, 2009

The year of Miracle & Grief - Leonid Borodin

Deep in the Siberia lies the second largest , and the deepest lake on earth, called Lake Baikal. When the 12 year old arrives at the small town on the banks of the great lake, when his parents got transferred to the Railway School there, he was amazed and was taken by the beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains. Once this initial astonishment yielded to the inquisitiveness of the place, he began exploring the area on his own.

His encounter with the grand old witch Sarma at the high mountains, and the imprisoned Prince Baikolla and his beautiful daughter, is all set to change his life for the next one year in a big way. Through the stories of the young girl, whom he falls in love at his first meeting, the legend of lake Baikal and other places in Siberia reveals to the young boy. Sarma, the old witch, a descendent of the Great Sibir ( from where the name Siberia derived) had the prince Baikolla and his daughter captive , avenging the death of her son, killed by Prince Baikolla while attempting to flee with his daughter. Sarma also destroyed the kingdom, flooding the valley resulting in Lake Baikal. According to Sarma, only the weak and who can not revenge the injustice forgive and did not entertain the request of the young boy to set them free. But, the childish innocence and persuasion worked. Sarma was willing to release the girl on a condition, that the sufferings of her will have to be burdened by the young boy. Smitten by adolescent love and the promise to Prince Baikolla that he will look after the girls well being, he agrees to the conditions. The girl is now with him, in the same class as he is, without any traces of her knowing the past. As warned by Sarma, the young boy is tormented and suffer. Loosing focus on studies, on friends and on himself, the days are passed, until the summertime, when they were expected to part for vacation and his eventual transfer to another school.
Like the great Lake Baikal, the people and surrounding goes through the changing fortunes and moods with the changing seasons. The boy and the ageless Sarma goes through the changes. Nature, is the main character of the tale. The expanse of Lake Baikal, the snow covered plains, the mountains, landslide which catches the boy on its way, are part of the story as the others are.

Mixing the real life and the fairy tale fantasy beautifully, Leonid Borodin develops a place which is vivid in the memory of the readers. Use of the myth and legends and the innocence of a small boy, while retaining the fictional elements, Borodin brings out a nice book. Written as the first person narrative of the boy, the initial excitement, the exploration of lake and the mountains, the witch and fairy tale and the myths and legends of Siberia, it gives a freshness to the reading experience.

Leonid Borodin, like many other writers was sentenced by the regime twice and was sent the prison camps at Siberia , from 1967 to 1973 and again from 1982 for 10 years. His works have been smuggled out of Russia for publishing.

The year of Miracle and GriefLeonid Borodin ( Translated by Jennifer Bradshaw)
Quartet Books
185 Pages
Further Read : NY Times Review

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