Andreï Makine is a great writer. I had only one bemusement – it wasn’t even a reservation – about his books: they always seemed to tell the same story. In Human Love he has broken away from that story. I wish I could salute his achievement, but something has gone wrong. I think Makine (like Anita Brookner, or Jean Rhys) may be a great teller of only one tale.
That tale, in Le Testament Français and other novels, is of a Russian boy with a French history, recounted through vivid images of the Siberian landscape and a few intense relationships. Human Love is the story of an African, Elias Almeida, whose experience of his mother’s poverty and death turns him into a professional revolutionary. It is also about Elias’s love for Anna, a Russian girl he meets during his training in Moscow; and above all about the conflict between this personal love and devotion to a political cause.