Andrei Makine is a Russian writer who writes in French. Or a French writer who was born in Russia. Doesn’t really matter, but his latest novel, Brief Loves that Last Forever, is, much like his novel Human Love, about love in the face of, well, whatever life throws at it.
It follows a Russian orphan, the narrator, and his, as the title suggests, brief love affairs, in the midst of the absurdities of communist Russia – the enforced enthusiasm, the promises of the coming utopia in the midst of hardship and surveillance. But the short novel doesn’t dwell unnecessarily on the privations of being an orphan, or a communist, partly perhaps because the narrator has simply accepted these as his lot in life. Rather, it, and the narrator, argue for the benefits of accepting those fleeting moments of beauty and love, against our tendency to always want to hold on to “paradise” (as the narrator terms it) permanently, when we find it. And there is a gentleness about the way this is articulated that is appealing. A novel with this theme could well have been sprawling, angry and explicit, but this isn’t.
This sits well with the traditional Judeo-Christian idea that life and whatever successes might come are simply transitory, and one could certainly argue the case for Jesus ‘enjoying the moment’, without going so far as to suggest he was some kind of hedonist.