Once Upon the River Love by Andreï Makine, Geoffrey Strachan

By Andreï Makine, Geoffrey Strachan

Within the tiny Siberian village of Svetlaya, 3 younger males band jointly opposed to the harshness of the actual and political atmosphere over the past years of the Soviet Empire. Dreaming of an alternate existence, they search notion from the movies of Jean-Paul Belmondo.

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Its presence was so new to me that I experienced it very physically, I could almost touch it, like the box of matches in my pocket. But the reason for it escaped me. It sometimes seemed to me that it had all begun that evening at the bathhouse when Samurai spoke of the beauty of the female body, which, according to him, made time stand still. From then on, the smell of his cigar gave me the feeling of a singular nostalgia. One of the most terrible kind: for places and faces one has never seen. Which one mourns as being lost forever.

Or improbable relatives determined to wait until the end . . until the very last glimpse of the face of a dear one as it was carried away into the night? At our backs we sensed the gaze of Sorokin, the formidable militiaman, who was pacing up and down on the snow-covered platform, with his nose buried in the broad collar of his sheepskin coat. He, too, was waiting for the departure whistle. He seemed to be hesitating: Should he go and corner the Redhead and extort three rubles from her, his usual tax?

But it was the shark! The absurdity of the can of fish soup containing the digested mortal remains of the spy was probably the only means by which I could have been kept on the fragile shores of life. Yes, what was needed was precisely that degree of harebrained madness for me to be snatched from reality and catapulted onto that sunny promenade, into that sunken cage where the mind-blowing execution was being prepared. The secret agent devoured by a shark and ending up in a can offish soup was just what was needed.

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