Over the next 8 weeks, I’ll be joining fellow blogger, Emma from Words And Peace, as we read a work of contemporary French fiction, L’Archipel d’une autre vie, by Andreï Makine (released in 2016). The book is also available in English, The Archipelago of Another Life, translated by Geoffrey Strachan. I invite you to join us. Both editions are available in paperback and the French version is also on Kindle.
Every 2 weeks, after reading approximately one-quarter of the book, we’ll be posting questions on our blogs pertaining to what we’ve read. We hope you can add to the discussion in the comments. If you haven’t read French for a while, I invite you to give it a try and recommend you check out 5 Kindle Reading Tips to Better your French Proficiency before getting started.
Below are descriptions of the book from Goodreads (one in French and one in English). I find it interesting that each one puts a different spin on the story.
L’Archipel d’une autre vie
Aux confins de l’Extrême-Orient russe, dans le souffle du Pacifique, s’étendent des terres qui paraissent échapper à l’Histoire…
Qui est donc ce criminel aux multiples visages, que Pavel Gartsev et ses compagnons doivent capturer à travers l’immensité de la taïga ?
C’est l’aventure de cette longue chasse à l’homme qui nous est contée dans ce puissant roman d’exploration. C’est aussi un dialogue hors du commun, presque hors du monde, entre le soldat épuisé et la proie mystérieuse qu’il poursuit. Lorsque Pavel connaîtra la véritable identité du fugitif, sa vie en sera bouleversée.
La chasse prend une dimension exaltante, tandis qu’à l’horizon émerge l’archipel des Chantars : là où une ” autre vie ” devient possible, dans la fragile éternité de l’amour.
The Archipelago of Another Life
A tense “Siberian Western” set in the inhospitable, boundless Russia taiga at the height of the Cold War.
On the far eastern borders of the Soviet Union, in the sunset of Stalin’s reign, soldiers are training for a war that could end all wars, for in the atomic age man has sown the seeds of his own destruction.
Among them is Pavel Gartsev, a reservist. Orphaned, scarred by the last great war and unlucky in love, he is an instant victim for the apparatchiks and ambitious careerists who thrive within the Red Army’s ranks.
Assigned to a search party composed of regulars and reservists, charged with the recapture of an escaped prisoner from a nearby gulag, Gartsev finds himself one of an unlikely quintet of cynics, sadists and heroes, embarked on a challenging manhunt through the Siberian taiga.
But the fugitive, capable, cunning and evidently at home in the depths of these vast forests, proves no easy prey. As the pursuit goes on, and the pursuers are struck by a shattering discovery, Gartsev confronts both the worst within himself and the tantalising prospect of another, totally different life.
Before I jump into a work of historical fiction, I like to know a bit more about the setting in which it takes place. Below are some maps to help you orient the location for The Archipelago of Another Life.
The red marker indicates the town of Tugur, (Tougour in French), the jumping off point for the start of the adventure.
This map shows the Shantar Islands (Îles Chantar in French). They are located just north of Tugur.
About the Author
Andreï Makine was born in Krasnoyarsk, Soviet Union on September 10, 1957 and grew up in the city of Penza, a provincial town about 440 miles southeast of Moscow. As a boy, having acquired familiarity with France and its language from his French-born grandmother (it is not certain whether Makine had a French grandmother; in later interviews, he claimed to have learned French from a friend), he wrote poems in both French and his native Russian.
In 1987, he went to France as a member of a teacher’s exchange program and decided to stay. He was granted political asylum and was determined to make a living as a writer in French. However, Makine had to present his first manuscripts as translations from Russian to overcome publishers’ skepticism that a newly arrived exile could write so fluently in a second language. After disappointing reactions to his first two novels, it took eight months to find a publisher for his fourth, Le testament français. Finally published in 1995 in France, the novel became the first in history to win both the Prix Goncourt and the Prix Medicis (France’s equivalent of winning The National Book Award and the Booker Prize in the same year) plus the Goncourt des Lycéens.
Read Along With Us
You can find our tentative reading schedule at the end of Emma’s announcement at Words And Peace. The parameters are loose, however, so feel free to come and go as you please.
You’ll find my questions for the first two chapters here. C’est parti!