As a child, Andre? Makine used to joke that French was his ""grandmother tongue."" For although he was raised deep in the heart of Russia, he was always faithless to his own language, preferring his maternal grandmother's exotic native French. This special affinity for the French language sustained Makine through the mild deprivations of his typical, postwar Soviet childhood. It made a dreamer of him and singled him out from the fold. And in 1989 he emigrated to France in order to become a writer. And a French writer at that. Living impecuniously in a proverbial Parisian garret, Makine wrote three novels in quick succession during the early 1990s. But he was unable to find a publisher for them, until he hit upon the ingenious idea of pretending that they were translations of his novels in Russian. The ploy worked and might have continued working indefinitely, had not Makine written a more intimate, semi-autobiographical novel.