Alexander Grin’s novella “Scarlet Sails” was my favorite book, when I grew up in Russia. Since its first publication in 1923, many generations of Russian children enjoyed this lyrical and romantic tale about the power of dreams.
The genre of this short book, only seven chapters, is hard to define. There is no overt magic there, so it’s not a typical fantasy, but the story takes place in a world made up by the author, so it’s not realistic either. In fact, most Grin’s stories occur in the same imaginary land his readers and fans call Grinlandia.
Grinlandia vaguely resembles Europe sometime in the 19th century. Not one specific country but an amalgam of the European glamour and mystery, as seen through the eyes of a Russian writer who never traveled to Europe. It feels far removed from the dreary reality of post-revolutionary Russia, the time when Grin wrote his stories.
Intrepid captains sail the turbulent seas of Grinlandia, and mysterious girls appear on the streets of its cities, Zurbagan and Liss. The heroes of “Scarlet Sails”, Assol and Gray, are probably the most beloved of all Grin’s characters.
Assol is a dreamer. A poor working girl in the fishing village of Kaperna, she doesn’t fit among her dull, hardworking neighbors, and they wouldn’t forgive her for that: they mock and scorn her. Her dreams are her only refuge, and she dreams about a prince, coming for her on a magnificent ship with scarlet sails.
Gray is an heir to a fortune. He lives with his parents in a castle, with a score of tutors and servants, but he dreams too – of becoming a captain and roaming the seas. His parents don’t understand him, so he runs away from home and makes his dream come true.
The writer’s voice is marvelous, expressive and emotional. His words are so evocative they touch your soul. You could almost see every scene, breathe in the salty air, hear the gulls scream. Every detail is like a tiny butterfly infused with radiance. I translated this book into English to share it with my English-speaking friends. I hope my translation convey to you at least part of the original beauty of this charming story.
YOU ARE READING
Scarlet Sails by Alexander GrinGeneral Fiction
Dreams versus real life-do you know a deeper conflict? Or a deeper joy, when the dreams win against reality? Assol dreams of scarlet sails.