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The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme: A Novel

The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme: A Novel

4.5 2
by Andreï Makine, Geoffrey Strachan

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With this novel, Andreï Makine, whose work has been compared to that of Balzac, Chekhov, Pasternak, and Proust, brings to a stunning conclusion his epic trilogy that began with Dreams of My Russian Summers and continued with Requiem for a Lost Empire.

The novel opens in 1942, in a burning, gutted Stalingrad, where the German and Russian


With this novel, Andreï Makine, whose work has been compared to that of Balzac, Chekhov, Pasternak, and Proust, brings to a stunning conclusion his epic trilogy that began with Dreams of My Russian Summers and continued with Requiem for a Lost Empire.

The novel opens in 1942, in a burning, gutted Stalingrad, where the German and Russian armies are locked in a struggle to the death. Amid these ruins, a French pilot and a nurse, also French, are engaged in a passionate affair that each knows will be hopelessly brief. The pilot, Jacques Dorme, was shot down two years earlier. Imprisoned and sent east to a German POW camp, Dorme made a daring escape and crossed Germany stealthily by night until he arrived in an already devastated Russia, where, having proved his mettle as a pilot, he joined a Russian squadron stationed near Stalingrad. But during the brief time they have together there, the love between Dorme and Alexandra builds and blossoms into a relationship they both know comes but once in a lifetime.

Several decades later, the narrator—a Russian exiled in France, a war orphan haunted by his dark childhood and obsessively searching for his roots—travels back to his native land, where in the icy and treacherous wastelands of Siberia he attempts to discover how his life and that of Jacques Dorme are inextricably intertwined.

Editorial Reviews

Anne Applebaum
imply retelling the plot or reciting the author's biography would reveal nothing of what it is actually like to read The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme. Nor is there anything to which this novel can be easily compared: This isn't a book that will remind you of any other book. Its charm lies precisely in its originality, in Makine's unexpected metaphors, and in his unusual prose, which -- even in English translation -- beautifully illuminates his deep, intuitive knowledge of two very different, very ancient, very damaged cultures.
— The Washington Post
Suzy Hansen
Makine's unfettered romanticism is refreshing; set against an artfully drawn yet stark backdrop of war, Communist brutality, hunger and death, it seems both stronger and more beautiful. His narrator's devotion to the liberty that can be found in language is clearly Makine's as well.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Makine closes his epic 20th-century Russian trilogy (Dreams of My Russian Summers; Requiem for a Lost Empire) with a poignant, tender ode to the power of wartime love. Amid the ruins of Stalingrad in 1942, French fighter pilot Jacques Dorme engages in a brief but memorable affair with Alexandra, a nurse from his homeland. The tale of their doomed love is narrated by an unnamed, middle-aged protagonist, who is presumably the product of their affair. An account of Dorme's tragic story-after escaping a German POW camp, he makes his way to Stalingrad, where he meets Alexandra, only to leave her and be killed on a heroic mission-is interwoven with the narrator's memories of growing up in a Russian orphanage and his interactions with Alexandra as he writes a novel based on Dorme's life. Makine draws stark, dramatic parallels between the narrator's orphanage experience and Dorme's internment as a POW, shifting to a more elegiac, wistful tone as he describes the week Dorme and Alexandra spend together. In the haunting final chapters, the narrator meets Dorme's brother after journeying to the mountain where Dorme crashed and finding the wreckage of the overloaded supply plane he piloted on his last mission. This touching finale is a fitting conclusion to Makine's distinguished trilogy. Agent, Georges Borchardt. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Russian-born novelist Makine completes the trilogy that began with Dreams of My Russian Summers. Here again, he takes up the stories of emigres-the French in Russia and Russians in France, revisiting themes of cultural and familial identity and alienation. In this installment, the nameless narrator, a Russian orphan who grows up to be a lionized novelist writing in French, is Makine's literary alter ego. The orphan boy is befriended by Alexandra, an old French widow living on the Russian steppes, who gives him two priceless gifts. She teaches him French and in so doing opens his artist's imagination to worlds beyond the repressive orphanage (surely a metaphor for Russia in the 1960s), and she tells him the story of her long-dead lover, French war pilot Jacques Dorme. Thus, Alexandra and Jacques become muses who will, years later, compel the artist to write their story. He is aware of "their deep connection to what [he is]." Makine opens his story with such lyrical simplicity: "The span of their life together is to be so short that everything will happen to them for both the first and the last time." Highly recommended for all libraries.-Janet Evans, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Lib., Philadelphia Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The attempt to record the star-crossed story of two lovers who meet on a WWII battlefield makes up Makine's limpid eighth novel (following A Hero's Daughter, 2003, etc.). An unnamed narrator initially describes his own experiences growing up in a dilapidated Russian orphanage in the 1960s, when Nikita Khrushchev has been officially denounced and the narrator and his comrades ape their elders' revisions of history by contriving "heroic myths" featuring their unknown fathers. The narrator is befriended by a French nurse who has spent many years in Russia and, from the nurse's piecemeal fragments of memory, learns the history of the eponymous Jacques Dorme, a French fighter pilot who was captured and interred in a makeshift German POW camp, whence he escaped, made his way eastward, and joined a Russian bomber squadron-and briefly encountered the nurse (renamed Alexandra), to whom their "single week [together] had been a long life of love." In the final section, the narrator travels to the village where Dorme grew up and confides to the pilot's sole survivor his own conflicted wish to reshape as a novel his homage to lives destroyed by war, in an effort to assert and perhaps finally fully understand "their deep connection to what I am." Makine handles this moving story's tricky time shifts expertly, and-except for a handful too many romantic wartime cliches-creates satisfyingly complex images of a lonely boy dreaming his way into a fuller reality, a stranger in strange lands seeking comfort through human connection, and a courageous woman who knows exactly how much happiness she dares to expect. And nobody surpasses Makine as a maker of stunning visuals-such as the recurring memory of asnapped necklace, beads cascading onto a floor-which subtly underscore his narrative's plangent romantic momentum. As the Russian-born French author's dual literary citizenship suggests, he may really be both his generation's Chekhov and its Proust.

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Arcade Publishing
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Meet the Author

Andreï Makine was born in Russia in 1957 and emigrated to France in 1987. In 1995 his novel Dreams of My Russian Summers won the Goncourt Prize and the Médicis Prize, France’s two most prestigious literary awards.

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The Earth and Sky of Jacques Dorme 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have loved everything I've read by Andrei Makine--his images are unforgettable and the characters are brilliant and compassionately evoked. I almost hesitate to call Makine's writing style romantic, because it may give people the wrong impression, but I don't mean romantic necessarily like a candlelit night, but romantic like containing strong emotions and artistic, poetic language. Beautiful writing style!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She walked in and bought a frappe