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". . .vivid and lasting images that haunt and touch the deepest emotions."
Human Love: The quest for love through revolution.
A reporter sees an African corpse, his dark suit and white shirt stained with old blood, as he shares an African hut on the frontier between Angola and Zaire. The reporter and a Soviet military instructor have been held for two days in Lunda Norte, waiting for a violent death while they watch several African men brutally murdered. The woman with them is raped repeatedly before being killed and her mouth searched and relieved of its hidden cache of rough diamonds. A young boy wearing a broken gas mask taunts the prisoners with his rifle. The reporter decides to search the corpse for something, anything to barter for their freedom. He finds an expensive fountain pen in an inside pocket and the “corpse” tells him the ink is dried out. It’s the climate.
The man’s name is Elias and, although he’s been tortured and his hands and feet bound with wire, he hangs onto life. Elias tells the reporter that by morning he and the Soviet, who are being held to exchange for their comrades, will be rescued when the Cubans overrun the camp with the dawn.
Elias was born in Angola, the son of a revolutionary who died fighting to overthrow Angola’s corrupt government. He was taught to do by Ernesto, his Cuban sponsor, a man the world knows as Che Guevara. Elias’s father left his family to fight. Elias’s mother stayed behind and sold her body to feed herself and her young son. His mother ended up dead in the street, her collarbone broken by a soldier’s boot. Alone, Elias searches for his father; he wants to learn to build a world where mothers don’t die in the street under the boots of uncaring and sadistic soldiers. Elias’s journey takes him from Angola to Cuba, on to Moscow and then to the Siberian wastes of Russia. He travels through Europe and back to Angola again to bring about a communist revolution.
Translated from the original French, Andreï Makine's latest novel, Human Love, is a study in contrasts. His protagonist, Elias, holds fast to one overriding dream, to find love in the violence and destruction of revolution. It seems strange that such a heartfelt and tender emotion shines so clearly through the gross atrocities of war and disillusionment as Elias grows from a confused and grieving child to a seasoned patriot bent on insurrection. Makine renders Elias’s story in vivid, lasting images that haunt and touch the deepest emotions.
The reporter’s world-weary experiences are in vulgar contrast to the shining hope that burns brightly through Elias’s tale. Makine’s ability to contrast the disillusioned journalist’s thoughts with the open heart and dreams of the African patriot will make Human Love an instant classic.
Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell