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Requiem for the East

by Andrei Makine

Don't read this book with your mind. Instead, allow it to wash your emotions, if you can bear them red raw, and let the poetry, the sorrow, the futility fix mood-pictures in your soul that transcend time and death.

Extract

Later on, during the night, I would sense that this past, photographed but never lived, aroused in you a memory of ourselves, of our actual life together, that we paid such little attention to our borrowed identities. This life had left behind no photos, no letters, had led to no exchange of confidences. Suddenly the counterfeit album reminded us that we had had these three years of routine complicity, and imperceptible closening of ties, an affection we avoided calling love. Far away there was our country, the weary empire whose physical mass we were ever aware of as the magnet that drew our thoughts, even through the African night. There were its scents and its winter smoke above the villages, the snows in its little towns, mute beneath the blizzards, its faces scarred by forgotten wars and exiles with no return, its history, in which the victorious din of sounding brass often gave way to weeping, to a silence cadenced by the tramp of a column of soldiers after a defeat in battle. And, buried deep in this snow and those muddied roads, there were the years of our childhood and youth, inseparable from the pulse of joy and sorrow, from the living alloy that we call our native land.
Translated by Geoffrey Strachan

Parallels

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
For the Good of the Cause by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
 

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