A Dazzling Russian travelogue from the bestselling author of Great Plains
In his astonishing new work, Ian Frazier, one of our greatest and most entertaining storytellers, trains his perceptive, generous eye on Siberia, the storied expanse of Asiatic Russia whose grim renown is but one explanation among hundreds for the region's fascinating, enduring appeal. In Travels in Siberia, Frazier reveals Siberia's role in history—its science, economics, and politics—with great passion and enthusiasm, ensuring that we'll never think about it in the same way again.
With great empathy and epic sweep, Frazier tells the stories of Siberia's most famous exiles, from the well-known—Dostoyevsky, Lenin (twice), Stalin (numerous times)—to the lesser known (like Natalie Lopukhin, banished by the empress for copying her dresses) to those who experienced unimaginable suffering in Siberian camps under the Soviet regime, forever immortalized by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago.
Travels in Siberia is also a unique chronicle of Russia since the end of the Soviet Union, a personal account of adventures among Russian friends and acquaintances, and, above all, a unique, captivating, totally Frazierian take on what he calls the "amazingness" of Russia—a country that, for all its tragic history, somehow still manages to be funny. Travels in Siberia will undoubtedly take its place as one of the twenty-first century's indispensable contributions to the travel-writing genre.
Drawn to what he calls "the incomplete grandiosity of Russia, Frazier's extraordinary work combines personal travelogue with in-depth history and gives readers a firsthand account of a place most will never see: Siberia. After 16 years of research, five trips to Siberia and more to western Russia, Frazier (Lamentations of the Father) recounts his obsession with the inhospitable place that doesn't officially exist: "no political or territorial entity has Siberia in its name." From the Mongol hordes that galloped across the steppes to the Soviet labor camps that killed millions, he intersperses the vast region's history with his own visits. Determined to immerse himself in Russian and particularly Siberian culture, Frazier embarks on a drive eastward across the tundra in the summer of 2001, accompanied by two guides. Seeing such sites as Irkutsk, the onetime "Paris of Siberia," Frazier and his companions travel 9,000 miles from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific in five weeks and two days, arriving on September 11. Since he hadn't felt Siberia's renowned bone-chilling cold, Frazier returned for a month in March of 2005, this time starting in the Pacific port of Vladivostok and traveling east to west. Part long-gestating love letter, part historical record of a place shrouded in mystery, this is Frazier at his best.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Very interesting read
Great book, but I recommend skipping the sections the delve deep into Russian history and focus on the author's firsthand accounts of his travels. They are fascinating. I find Russian history interesting, too, but the author goes off on tangents and focuses on minutiae of his personal interest. This book should be abridged with 100 or so pages cut, and would be much more readable. It is also a shame that there were no photographs; such would have made the scenes, people, and landscape come alive more.
I first discovered excerpts of this book in the New Yorker. I found it Insightful, historical, offbeat, personable and overall entertaining. Makes me want to go.
Slinkystudio's review here and his many other reviews in the Travel genre always say to read Interstate Exits (or whatever the title is) instead. Why plug the same book so many times? Sounds fishy.... or slinky.
Always get the sample first of course.
Not the best travel read.
Didn't enjoy this all that much.