The Bound and the Elsewhere: the Myth of Jean-Paul Belmondo in Andreï Makine’s Siberia

Elisabetta Abignente


The narrative work of Andreï Makine (1957), a French writer of Siberian origin, is situated on the border between two geographical and cultural spaces: on the one hand the wide, wild and snowy Siberia of his childhood; on the other hand France, a mythic place which the main characters, often teenagers, of his novels look at as a model. The contrast between these two worlds is described in a particularly forceful way in one of his early novels, Au temps du fleuve Amour (1994), in which the author tells the overwhelming effect of the screening of a popular French comedy with Jean-Paul Belmondo (Le Magnifique, 1973) in a small Siberian village. Looking closely at the entire sequence which is devoted to the film in the novel, the paper aims to reconstruct the process of mythicizing the Belmondo character by the three young protagonists and to investigate the functions that the episode covers in the novel. Focusing on the different narrative levels that characterize the film plot, we show how the “phenomenon Belmondo” embodies in the novel the idea of a triple border: a geographic one (Europe/Asia), an expressive one (writing/imagine) and, above all, an imaginary one (reality/fiction). We also show how this phenomenon refers, in the novel, to one of the central themes of Makine’s work: literary vocation.


Andreï Makine; Jean-Paul Belmondo; Siberia; West; Elsewhere; Border; Literary vocation; Mythicizing

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