Thubron seems intent on finding the sustaining spirit of his acquaintances; we encounter myriad variations of Russian Orthodox /Buddhist/atheist religion. We hear personal accounts of the labor camps of Stalin and Kruschchev that surpass even Solzhenisyn's descriptions. But more important we are introduced to the ordinary people of this vast country and Thubron shares these characters with insight and intelligent reportage that makes us feel as though we journeyed with him.
And this is supposed to be a Travel Book? I think not. This is a volume of first-hand information that leaves the reader enriched and empathetic.......an enormously fine read!
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Woven among the often bitter and eroding memories of a Siberian past is a sense of new freedom. After all, this is the first time in Russia's history when foreigners can travel freely throughout the region--and its inhabitants can comment openly about their government without fear of reprisal. Thubron coaxes an institute official at the Akademgorodok Praesidium to speak his mind:
His face was heavy with anger. "We have one overriding problem here.Money. We receive no money for new equipment, hardly enough for our salaries. There are people who haven't been paid for six months." Then his anger overflowed. He was barking like a drill sergeant. "This year we requested funds for ...