PORTRAIT OF AN UNKNOWN GIRL (PORTRET VAN EEN ONBEKEND MEISJE) BY ALEKSANDR SKOROBOGATOV – Plot Summary

PORTRAIT OF AN UNKNOWN GIRL is a captivating and tragic story about a secret teenage love, unfolding against the background of oppressed Belarus in the final decades of Soviet rule. Evoking the provocative yet sophisticated sensuality of Nabokov’s iconic ‘Lolita’ along with the refined nostalgia of ‘The Life of Arseniev’ by Ivan Bunin, ‘Portrait of an Unknown Girl’ is a powerful and beautiful coming-of-age novel.

Driven by what they see as their first love, which too quickly takes complete control over their lives, Sasha and his girlfriend, Katia, find themselves challenging the many prejudices that rule over their sleepy and callous provincial town at the edge of the Soviet empire. Fighting for love soon turns into a fight against reality itself—a difficult fix, especially if you’re just a teen.

When Katia finds out she is pregnant, she tries to conceal her pregnancy and convince herself and Sasha that everything will be fine, just as long as nobody knows. But her secret is discovered. Furtively, in order to ‘cover the shame,’ she’s being taken to hospital, where a corrupt doctor aborts her five-month-old unborn son, the child of a child.

The appearance of another girl, Nika, not only dramatically changes Sasha’s perception of himself and of the true essence of his relationship to Katia; for the first time in his life, Sasha is also painfully confronted with his own shortcomings. He is willing to face and battle them—but is it already too late for him to recognize and save the life of his one true love?

‘Portrait of an Unknown Girl’ is not only a powerful story of the beauty and the tragedy of first love, but also an uncompromising portrait of an inhumane epoch and an oppressive regime that breaks people, punishes innocence and integrity, and ruins lives.

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