The Crime of Olga Arbyelina by Andreï Makine - review by Frances Welch

Frances Welch

A Reason for Incest

The Crime of Olga Arbyelina


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There are few images more beguiling than that of the gilded White Russian reduced to beggary by the Revolution. Some of the stories are tragic. One need only think of Natasha Romanov, the wife of the Tsar's brother, dying alone and penniless in a Parisian charity hospital. Other images are less dramatic but just as poignant: Prince Felix Yussupov, down to his last kopek, consumed with impotent rage after coming across his family's sequestered treasures in a Sotheby's catalogue.

Andreï Makine, an exile born in Siberia and now living in France, focuses on painful breaks with the past in The Crime if Olga Arbyelina. One of his characters is the impoverished Count Khodorsky, who paints his feet with Indian ink to hide the holes in his shoes. Makine laments

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