Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme - Andrei Makine

This book, the third of the famous Russian Trilogy ( Dreams of My Russian Summers; Requiem for a Lost Empire) is again set in the WW II Russia. The war is at the decisive phase, with Stalingrad was under siege and the out come of this war decide the future of World War II ( as we all understand later). The trains carrying soldiers - singing and playing accordions- are moving towards the western front, while those injured with broken limbs and broken spirits are returning eastwards in the silent slow trains. Alexandra, a nurse,is helping the injured soldiers arriving in these trains in the outskirts of Stalingrad.

Jacques Dorme, a pilot with French Troupe in the WW , was arrested after a heroics in which he shot down an important German Flight in one of the calculative and intelligent maneuver. He managed to escape the German Cap with two of his fellow Polish prisoners. Wandering through the battlefields of Poland and Ukraine he ended up in the Soviet Camp, wanting to fight the Germans. It was during this journey, he came to the place Alexandra. The encounter too was dramatic, shouting and pushing among the burning trains. The initial interaction gradually moved to admiration and love, though it lasted only a week. Jacques was posted tothe Eastern Siberia and was entrusted to fly aircrafts in the Alaska-Siberia route, transporting the US aircrafts to the use of Soviet military. It is among these vast snow clad mountains , he met his death.

Alexandra, a French by birth, came to Russia marrying a Russian Soldier, whose husband was killed by the authorities, in one of the trials as traitor and was now helping the young children in an orphanage, where the narrator spends his childhood during the early 60s. Young boy, whose father was killed by the authorities as a traitor, slowly acquaint Alexandra, and spend his vacation in her library, learning French and reading books. It was then, he came to know about the story of Jacques Dorme, which he investigates and write about years later.

The novel is set in three time zones. The WW II era of Jacques Dorme and Alexandra, the early 60s with the protagonist in the school where he is aquainted with Alexandra and the writer ( now grown up and is settled in Paris) who is attempting to recreate the life of Jacques Dorme. In the very moving end chapter, he meets the brother of Jacques Dorme , after making a trip to the mountains in search of the wreckage of the flight that made the last trip of Dorme.

This is my third read of Andrei Makine.I am as impressed as I was with the first book. The language is poetic, very picturesque and very moving especially while the writings are on Alexandra or Jacques Dorme. Beautifully written.


The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme (2003)

Andrei Makine ( translated from French by Geoffrey Strachan 2005)

Arcade Publishing

206 Pages

Othe Reviews : The Age , Guardian

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