Anton, a young Boy, his Friend & the Russian Revolution
By Dale Eisler
Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing, Regina, Saskatchewan, 2010, 350 pages, softcover.
Widespread critical acclaim from authors and academics in the U.S. and Canada has greeted the release of Anton: A Young Boy, His Friend & the Russian Revolution, a novel by author and former Saskatchewan journalist Dale Eisler, who is currently Canada’s Consul General in Denver, Colorado.
Set in a small village in the Black Sea region of Russia from 1919-1925 during the tumultuous wake of the Russian Revolution, Anton is the story of a young boy trying to cope with the suffering and violence he witnesses and cannot understand. Slowly, Anton and his friend begin to comprehend the reality of their lives as their friendship deepens in the adversity they share.
The story, which explores the little-known fate of German immigrants to Russia during and after the Russian Revolution, is being received with praise.
Tucker Hart Adams, former University of Moscow professor of economics and current president of the American-Russian Collaborative Enterprise, praises Anton.
"Eisler has written a beautiful, gripping story of the dark side of the Bolshevik Revolution," says Adams. "Told through the eyes of a small boy in a tiny Ukrainian village, the reader is immediately immersed in the horror of the Revolution, the redeeming power of friendship and courage, and the promise of opportunity in a new land."
Steven Hayward, author of the acclaimed The Secret Mitzvah of Lucio Burke, calls Anton "powerful, absorbing reading."
"This is a novel I admire immensely: a forceful literary style, wonderful characters, impressive erudition about a historically and geographical remote setting, all of that and a compelling story worth telling," says Hayward, assistant professor of English at Colorado College.
Similar praise of Anton comes from others in the U.S. and Canada.
Author and journalist Douglas Brown of the Denver Post says: "With Anton, Dale Eisler pulled off the difficult: He merged the sweep of history with the granular details and the small dramas of family into a gripping, moving whole. Anton is a fascinating glimpse into a little-known period of history. It is also a fabulous story. I recommend it highly."
Tom Farer, dean of the Joseph Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and author of several books, is similarly impressed. "An arresting, imaginative work by a gifted and sophisticated writer," says Farer of Anton.
Eric Schmaltz, associate professor of history at Northwestern Oklahoma State University calls Anton "a compelling coming-of-age story" that is "an illuminating and rich portrait of the enduring power of friendship and memory spanning continents and generations."
Canadian author and journalist Roy MacGregor has similar praise for Anton.
"Dale Eisler has long been numbered among the great writers from the Canadian Prairies," says MacGregor, author of Canadians: A Portrait of a Country and Its People. "In turning his remarkable skills to the novel, he has given us the gift of Anton, a story of simple and lasting friendship that moves from the Black Sea through the Russian Revolution and horrors of the Great War to the mud huts of Saskatchewan. Leon Trotsky is here, as is John Smith - but the characters the reader will never forget are Anton and Kaza."
And David Wyn Roberts, author of The Alchemist’s Song, says Anton has "characters who are finely tuned, poignant and real. A sweeping historical hymn, spanning two continents that ultimately carves a smooth arc across the bridge of decades."
Comments about the Book:
"A beautiful, gripping story of the dark side of the Bolshevik Revolution. The reader is immediately immersed in the horror of the Revolution, the redeeming power of friendship and courage, and the promise of opportunity in a new land."
-- Tucker Hart Adams, former professor of economics, University of Moscow.
"A story of simple and lasting friendship that moves from the Black Sea through the Russian Revolution and horrors of the Great War to the mud huts of Saskatchewan. Leon Trotsky is here, as is John Smith -- but the characters the reader will never forget are Anton and Kaza."
-- Roy MacGregor, author of Canadians: A Portrait of a Country and Its People.
"An arresting, imaginative work by a gifted and sophisticated writer."
-- Tom Farer, dean, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver.
"Anton is a fascinating glimpse into a little-known period of history. It is also a fabulous story. I recommend it highly."
-- Douglas Brown, Denver Post.
"I would like to tell Kutschurganers about a newly-released book of historically-based fiction, titled "Anton, a young boy, his friend, and the Russian Revolution" by Dale Eisler. The book covers the time frame of 1919 to 1925 in the Kutschurgan valley. The story is told by young Anton, as he sees his world. He is almost five years old, as the story begins on July 31, 1919, the day he witnesses the execution-style death of his father along with eleven other men in Fischer-Franzen. The villages of Strassburg, Selz and Mannheim are mentioned frequently, as are many recognizable German family names.
The book is well researched, but the reader must keep in mind that the story is fiction, although it is based on the author's mother's family. The book provided me with a new understanding of the slow evolution of the "dorfsowjet", answerable to a larger regional "sowjet", and a system which eventually led to complete collectivization. Although I am sure it was not the author's intent, the book also explained for me how the revolutionary zeal of St. Petersburg was able to filter down to forcibly change and control the lives of the residents of even such a small and isolated village as Fischer Franzen in the Kutschurgan valley.
Mostly though, the book is about Anton, and his family, and his best friend, as they live through the horrors around them, and struggle to understand what is happening to their lives in Fischer Franzen, until 1925 when they are able to emigrate to Canada, to Saskatchewan.
Yes, I admit a personal connection!"
-- Merv Weiss, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Review by Bernelda Becker
Review by Charles Stroh