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Le Testament Francais (Sceptre 21's) Paperback – 28 Dec 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre (28 Dec. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034093641X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340936412
  • Product Dimensions: 13.4 x 2.1 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 212,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

A superb novel about fantasy and reality...It is Makine's achievement to convey the essential, with economy, grace and beauty ( Scotsman )

Great literature, necessary and profound ( Independent )

He communicates brilliantly the exquisite agony of nostalgia ( Literary Review )

Beautifully written...A deceptively profound novel. Makine's wonderful economy of image and phrase convey far more than one could think possible about the Russian soul ( Daily Telegraph )

Book Description

The first novel to win both the Prix Goncourt and Prix Médicis

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Sept. 1998
Format: Paperback
On the surface, this is a simple story of a Russian boy growing up in a fantasy world, the details of which are provided by his French grandmother Charlotte. With her sewing on her lap, she spins stories of her Parisian youth, triggered by photographs and newspaper cuttings kept in an an old 'Siberian' suitcase. As a child, he is fascinated by this vividly-remembered world, a misty Atlantis, but as the novel unfolds, we realise the narrator is on a self-imposed alchemical quest. His task is to rework these memories told as stories into a form that is acceptable as literature, with nods to Proust, Chekhov and Knut Hamsun. Indeed, in the final part of the book, he finds his work on sale in a bookshop. We first follow Charlotte's journey through snow and ice, storm and flood, revolution and rape, then the writer's attempts to capture this magic in words, and of course he realises that "the essential is unsayable" and yet "the unsayable is essential." However, via increasingly intense moments of wonder, or as James Joyce would say, epiphanies, he experiences, for example, a vivid street-scene in Paris in 1910, and 'becomes' the three women in an old photo. Each event in Charlotte's life - and consequently his own - is a moment in time which may be lost forever unless it is vividly recalled and told to another, just as was done in the ancient story-telling tradition, before writing arrived. Makine's attempt to show us that literature is "perpetual amazement" is a success; the prose is certainly haunting, even poetic in places. Although this is an excellent translation, I suspect that the French language of the original allows for many more nuances and subtleties of meaning.Read more ›
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Sept. 1998
Format: Paperback
What a marvelous, marvelous book. For those without the time or patience to read Remembrance of Things Past, "Dreams" provides the same evocative, dreamlike magic that Proust has provided generations of readers.
For one who spent his formative years in Paris in the early '50s and who spent time in Russia toward the end of the Gorbachov era, this book resonated in nearly every sentence. I could feel and smell old Parisian haunts and back streets in St. Petersburg or in villages in the Caucaucus.
Charlotte Lemonnier will live as one of the great characters in 20th century literature, and the narrator takes his place beside Marcel in "Remembrance" and Stephen in "Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man."
Upon finishing this book for the first time, I immediately turned back to page one and started all over. After a two month layoff, I'm now reading it yet again. Like a Vermeer painting or a Beethoven string quartet, this book justifies frequent renewed visits. Truly a great work of art.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 Nov. 1998
Format: Paperback
Because this novel is impressionistic, abstract, and dreamy at first it seems odd and plotless. However, if you're like me, this novel will pull you in and begin to work its magic on you. At first you may be put off by the excessive romanticism exhibited here--the focus on dreams as more significant than reality, the idealization of character, the emphasis on nostalgia and memory, the overwrought sensuality--but eventually you realize that the emotion is sincere and not sentimental. You begin to realize that the sketchy fragments do add up to a complete picture. If you are a lover of literature you begin to see the process that such a love is instilled in a child and how it can become the most essential focus of the mature individual's life. I did not rate the novel with 5 stars because it is flawed in parts, but it is well worth reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Aug. 1997
Format: Paperback
The French have a bold champion in Andrei Makine. With his lyrical evocations of France's past, his depiction of France as the epitome of culture and refinement, the music of his language, and the obvious love for the culture which he evokes and shares with the reader, it is easy to see why he has won French prizes for this book.
But one does not have to be a Francophile also to find it gorgeous. The narrator of this seemingly autobiographical novel is a young Russian reminiscing about his remarkable French grandmother, a woman who, after her marriage to a Russian, lived nearly all her adult life in Siberia and whom he visited summers as a teenager. And it is also the story of the importance of dreams, how they meld imagination and recollection and how they infuse our lives, giving meaning and joy, especially in times of want or sorrow.
The narrator's dreams, sparked by the stories his grandmother tells of turn-of-the-century Paris/Atlantis, are not limited by real-life privations, or limited to his own era, country, social circle, or family. Instead, they allow him to roam through an earlier Paris, to know presidents, to banquet at sumptuous dinners of innumerable courses, to experience romantic love, to share a culture and language with Proust, to see the Paris opera or the circus. Though he admires the "tempestuous streets" of Paris, so different from the "perfect social calm" and "somnolent tranquility" of Siberia, he discovers, not surprisingly, that his peers resent his inner life-it is "a provocation in the eyes of those who live...in the present.
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