A mesmerizing celebration of the influence of memory and longing in shaping our imaginations and lives, by a Russian novelist of substantial power and originality. Makine's fourth novel (the first to be translated into English) has already received acclaim in France, where it won both the Prix Goncourt and Prix Medicis. The story consists largely of the attempts of Andrei, a Russian ÇmigrÇ in France, to set down his recollections of his beloved grandmother Charlotte. Born in France but raised largely in a small town in Siberia, Charlotte's life spans much of the century, from the years before the 1917 Revolution through her experience of the rise of the Communists and the horrors of the 1930s and WW II. A tough, complex, charming figure, she fascinates Andrei, who spends the summers of his childhood and adolescence with her. She creates for him a vivid portrait of the ``France/Atlantis'' of her childhood, a world far more elegant, carefree, and stimulating than Russia in the 1970s and '80s. Her warm, artful memories of her homeland and of books (``It was,'' he says, ``indeed essentially a bookish country, a country composed of words'') captivate Andrei. Makine's portrait of the manner in which the romantic Andrei becomes, as a result of his absorption in this other world, an outsider in Russia, and eventually a restless traveler around Europe, is exact and convincing. Not surprisingly, he ends up in France, where he attempts, through ``the silent work of memory,'' to come to grips with the exact nature of his inheritance. It is only through art, Makine suggests, that we can escape the allure of the past, by transmuting it into something that has ``the reality, discreet and spontaneous, of life itself.'' By no means the least pleasure here is Makine's voice: reflective, sensuous, frank. A superb exploration of the sustaining power of memory, and one of the most distinctive novels of the season.