Monday, April 11, 2011

The Woman Who Waited - Andrei Makine

What was the longest wait for the love in the literary world ? Marquez made his hero wait for "53 year, 7 months and 11 days" in Love in the Time of Cholera for his love.

Boris Koptev 19, left to the froniters during the last days of WW II. He was part of the troops that went for the final rituals of defeat of Berlin. However, he was reported missing in action from the frontiers, As a truthful fiancee, Vera 16 year old, is waiting for his return. The narration is in the mid 70s, and the wait is 30 years long. Living in Mirnoe, a hamlet of old widows ( mostly of the soldiers of WW II), Vera lives her life taking care of them and teaches few students left in the village at the nearby school. "That blessed Vera ! she is still waiting ! still waiting ! She will wait forever"

Our nameless narrator, an artist from Leningrad, to study and record the local customs and folklore ( and to gather material for anti-soviet satire as advised by his friend), comes to this place up-north in Russian wilderness near the white sea. 26 year old, counter revolutionary, active with the Leningrad clandestine group, in Breshnev's Russia known for their disdain for the leadership. His initial curiosity towards this mysterious lady ( now in her mid forties) moved way to awe and admiration for her selfless work in this village. The meeting and acquaintance and his attempt to learn more about this lady gets more intriguing and complicated. Drawn to her ways of life, and not able to get into her mind, frustrates and challenges the young man.

"She is a woman so intensely destined for happiness and yet she has chosen, almost casually, it seems, solitude, loyalty to an absent one, a refusal to love.." begins the novel, as noted by the narrator.

He was ready to leave and return to Leningrad, but some charm hold him back to the place. He build stories in his own mind, creates possible plots and try finding a reason by himself ( and for himself), but not able to break the code into her thinking. All he manages to get was few glimpses of her past life, only to reaffirm the ever growing stature of the lady. As Otar the driver puts it,"You know, may be she is right, after all, that Vera.. in any case it's not for me, or you for that matter, to judge her",

Andrei Makine writing has the wonderful feeling of being so close to real time experience, while keeping a safe distance from the plot. The descriptions are vivid and unhurried. The plots are not in big canvas , neither it is studded with characters. Even here, apart from the protagonist and the lady in discussion, there are only a couple of characters worth attention. like the other works of this writer, Very moving without being overtly sentimental or emotive , he bring about an extremely poignant story of love , loss and longing.

A rather simple story line is transformed into a rich, lyrical and beautiful work of art by this fantastic writer.
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The Woman Who Waited ( 2004)

Andrei Makine ( Translated from French by Geoffrey Strachan in 2006)

Arcade Publishing

182 Pages
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Other Review : Telegraph , Washington Post, Guardian

1 comment:

Jayaseelan said...

Nice. This book is available in the library here. Will grab a copy and read. Thanks.