found political asylum here in 1987, French promises assimilation and
a link to the great literary tradition of Zola and Proust. He
recounted the story of how, 20-odd years ago, his first manuscripts,
which he wrote in French, were rejected by French publishers because
it was presumed that he couldn't write French well enough as a
Then he invented the name of a translator, resubmitted the same works
as if they were translations from Russian, and they won awards. He
added that when his novel "Dreams of My Russian Summers" became a
runaway best seller and received the Prix Goncourt, publishing houses
in Germany and Serbia wanted to translate the book from its "original"
Russian manuscript, so Mr. Makine spent two "sleepless weeks," he
said, belatedly producing one.
"Why do I write in French?" he repeated the question I had posed. "It
is the possibility to belong to a culture that is not mine, not my
Source: Michael Kimmelman, "Pardon My French, New York Times, April
21, 2010, http://www.languagehat.com/archives/003845.php