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What if Grand Duchess Anastasia, daughter of the last Russian Czar Nicholas II, had not died like the rest of her family, executed by the Bolsheviks on a summer night in 1918? From this uchronic postulate, We, Anastasia R., written in four hands by Patrick Cothias and Patrice Ordas, takes us with passion into the turbulent Europe of the 1920s.
The historical novel, We, Anastasia R., is divided into three parts, each representing three chronologically distinct eras. It is also presented in the original form of diaries. Thus, it is through the writings - almost chronicles - of the three main characters that the story is told to us. And this story starts from a hypothesis which was in its day really plausible: if one of the members of the imperial family had survived his execution in a dark and filthy cellar by the Bolshevik revolutionaries? Indeed, the course of this execution has long intrigued historians who were controversial about the absence of the remains, the Reds having done everything to make them disappear. While the death of Nicholas II has rarely been questioned, the same has not been true for other members of his family, especially for his wife and four daughters, the Grand Duchesses. It was only very recently with the discovery in 2007 and the identification in 2008 of the last two missing bodies of the Romanov family that the case was finally concluded. In other words, the most diverse theories and hypotheses have been able to reign supreme for many years.
From the Bolshevik revolution to the duty of history
The first part - the first period - of the novel immerses us in the midst of the Bolshevik revolution, in the city of Yekaterinburg in the summer of 1918. We discover the daily life of the Czar, his family and his few faithful servants as well as of that of their Bolshevik jailers in their prison: the Villa Ipatiev. The atmosphere appears very well rendered with a real concern for historical detail, in particular on the different characters of the imperial family as the inevitable gradually approaches: their execution that they ignore but that we, the readers, are seeing gradually to set up. But now, one of the tsar's daughters escapes, rescued by Félix Volodin, a loyal officer and infiltrated spy madly in love.
The novel can then change register in the second part with the flight and the new life of the young and impetuous Anastasia through a perilous journey from the Urals to Paris of the 1920s via Berlin. The Grand Duchess must pretend to be dead because the Tcheka's spies are on the prowl and will do anything to make her disappear. Once again, Patrick Cothias and Patrice Ordas succeed perfectly in reproducing the atmosphere of those years as we gradually let ourselves be carried away by the beautiful love story between Anastasia and her savior, Felix, who to protect her creates a double who really existed in the person of Anna Anderson.
The third and final part of the novel takes us back to a closer past, some sixty years after the events of 1918. If a priori, we can doubt its interest, especially with its finale of a completely Rasputinian mysticism - we will appreciate it or not - the authors take the opportunity to approach a very interesting historical subject, almost even historiographical. It is indeed the question of the writing of history and negationism. And it is very appreciable to see such a sensitive subject tackled - but with very good reason - in this novel.
Thus, if we are a good part of the story in full uchronia, we are paradoxically never very far from the historical reality as evidenced by the very interesting and really useful appendix taking stock of the real story of Anastasia. The authors, Patrick Cothias and Patrice Ordas have succeeded in the difficult synthesis between fiction and history to deliver an immersive and interesting novel.
Patrick Cothias and Patrice Ordas, Nous, Anastasia R., Éditions Grand Angle, 2011.