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In Siberia

A book by Colin Thubron

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A mesmerizing, gripping book

  • Jan 29, 2000
Russia metamorphosed in the 20th century assuming and shedding identities as often as it did heads of state. Finding an examination of the history of these events that maintains some semblance of neutrality and pure observation seemed unlikely - until now. IN SIBERIA is a rare combination study of geography, economics, political science, sociology, and history in a format of conversations with the people who live there. Author Thubron is a modern day Richard Halliburton (remember him?), a man brave enough to singly explore the vastness of Siberia in search of the identity of its people. What he gives us is a lushly detailed panorama of physical grandeur and a near clinical insight into the psyches of the people he meets along his journey. His characters are so well reported that they seem to inhabit a fine fiction/history novel. But the sweep of his conversations with these time worn people is so honestly presented that the reader feels privy to shrouded secrets of the past and intimations of the future of a much maligned and misunderstood country.

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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About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #97
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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In Siberiaexplores a region of astonishments, where "white cranes dance on the permafrost, where a great city floats lost among the ice floes, where mammoths sleep under glaciers." Colin Thubron's latest chronicle also delivers its subject from rumor into reality. An expanse larger than the entire United States, Siberia is undoubtedly a country of contrasts, which elicits from the author both awe and melancholy. Here on one hand is a northern wilderness "shattered into a jigsaw of ponds and streams," and on the other a "black detritus of factories and ruins." No less memorable than the landscape are the people that Thubron encounters. He gathers their stories like rough jewels, showing us a self-proclaimed descendant of Rasputin, an isolated Jewish community, and a parade of "indestructible babushkas."

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 ...
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ISBN-10: 0060195436
ISBN-13: 978-0060195434
Author: Colin Thubron
Publisher: HarperCollins

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