Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Hero's Daughter - Andrei Makine

Before reading this book, I had read 5 other books of Andrei Makine. This was the first published book of Andrei Makine, luckily not the first to get translated to English. Interestingly, when he submitted the manuscript to publishers, it was rejected, for being written in French. It was told that, he resubmitted the same as a translated work from Russian, for it to be accepted, and the rest is history.

Having said that, to me this book wasn't all that impressive. It does have the mark of Andrei Makine, its vivid description, the nostalgic feeling of the past, the exotic landscapes and all that. But on the whole it had a lot short comings despite attempting a theme of interest.

Andrei Makine presents two lives to us. One Ivan Demidov, who saves Moscow from falling into the control of the advancing Germans during the World War II, almost alone. He was awarded the "Gold Star" and was the official "Hero of the Soviet Union". 40 years thence, we see his daughter working for the KGB , working at the International Trade Center, as an interpreter for the visiting delegates and businessmen, sneaking out their documents to the waiting officials, by compromising her personal integrity.

The book started with the battle scene where the dead and injured soldiers were removed from the battlefield after an ambush, where Ivan was rescued by the military nurses. Observed as dead, Ivan was lucky to have the nurse Tatanya taking notice of him. Recuperated at the hospital , he leaves again to the front, leaving behind his love for Tanya. He return to the hospital looking for his love, despite the physical and medical issues Tanya had to suffer due to an explosion, he decided to marry her. The couple goes back to his village in the outskirts of Moscow. Olys Demidov was born to the couple who survived famine which took the life of their first son, and the death of Stalin.

Life is changed again in the eighties with the death of 3 leaders in a row. Breshnev, Chernenko and Andropv ( the dreaded ex-KGB chief). Gorbachev has sworn in with some internal political maneuvering. The new changes in the political and social structure. Peristroika and Glastnost aren't gone well with the old, who are now settled to a routine living. The disturbances are in the raise, Ivan looses his wife in one of the revolt by the frustrated youth. He take solace in drinking from grief. Once a hero of the Soviet Union is now a piece of ridicule to the public and to the authorities, selling every piece of his belongings, drinking all the way, Ivan'c contempt to the new ways were reached the peak after he witnessed his daughter, in her current job.

Andrei Makine attempts to bring the two poles together. Two generations one still cherish the memories of survival , of war and of survival from the iron fisted rule. The new generations do not have the same values and virtues. There seems to be a new hope of something changing. While the iron fist continue to govern, there are dreams of a better life. They dream about the western way of living. For them war is a learning through text books. Germany is not an enemy, but a world of glorious possibilities and freedom. The old heroes of war is replaced by the newer ones, fighting in Afganistan. It is this duality that Andrei Makine trying to attempt to capture in his first attempt. I wouldn't say he failed in it, but having read other books from this brilliant writer, I am a bit disappointed at the outcome.
A Hero's Daughter ( 1990 )

Andrei Makine ( Translated from French by Geoffrey Strachan 2004)

Sceptre Paperback

163 Pages
The Publishers Weekly

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