As mysterious as its beautiful, as forbidding as it is populated with warm-hearted people, Syberia is a land few Westerners know, and even fewer will ever visit. Traveling alone, by train, boat, car, and on foot, Colin Thubron traversed this vast territory, talking to everyone he encountered about the state of the beauty, whose natural resources have been savagely exploited for decades; a terrain tainted by nuclear waste but filled with citizens who both welcomed him and fed him—despite their own tragic poverty. From Mongoloia to the Artic Circle, from Rasputin's village in the west through tundra, taiga, mountains, lakes, rivers, and finally to a derelict Jewish community in the country's far eastern reaches, Colin Thubron penetrates a little-understood part of the world in a way that no writer ever has.
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In Siberia explores 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 six or seven different programmes! And not one has been accepted by the government! Not one!"
Thubron's portrait is as elegant as it is evocative. But just as notably, his journey to the east manages to break the long and destructive Siberian silence. --Byron RicksAbout the Author :
Colin Thubron is the author of seven award-winning novels, including To the Last City, which was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. He is an acknowledged master of travel writing, and his most recent titles include Behind the Wall, winner of the Hawthornden Prize and the Thomas Cook Travel Award; In Siberia, winner of the Prix Bouvier; the New York Times bestseller Shadow of the Silk Road; and To a Mountain in Tibet. In 2010 he became president of the Royal Society of Literature.
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