Travels in Siberia

Ian Frazier

Book - 2010

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Subjects
Published
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2010.
Edition
1st ed
Language
English
Physical Description
viii, 529 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., maps, ports ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index
ISBN
9780374278724
0374278725
Main Author
Ian Frazier (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Frazier (Great Plains, 1989; On the Rez, 2000) has long been fascinated by vast, empty spaces and the people who live in them. It's only natural that he is interested in the place that is almost synonymous with nowhere: Siberia. Here he tells of his repeated visits, from a summer trip across the Bering Strait to a winter trip to Novosibirsk; however, the centerpiece of the book is his overland crossing from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean. That's a massive journey, and this is a massive book. He captures the character and particulars of the place but lets us down, somewhat, as a tour guide. The very best travel writers possess physical and mental toughness, but Frazier is often surprisingly timid: he allows his Russian guides to drive past prisons he really wants to stop and see. And when, at the end of the book, he finally visits an abandoned, snow-covered prison camp, he doesn't explore the barracks building because it feels wrong: "I was merely a foreign observer." His complaints about the discomforts of the journey occasionally leave us wondering whether he really loves Russia. Still and all, it's an unforgettable and enlightening portrait of a place most of us know very little about. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

It's more than just 40-below winters. Siberia embraces Orthodox priests, scientists, prospectors, fur hunters, tea caravans, and, of course, prisoners. Its first travelog was written by 13th-century monks, and this latest should feature New Yorker contibutor Frazier's ever sharp and distinctive writing, even if he's far from the Great Plains and Rez. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

New Yorker contributor Frazier's (On the Rez) latest is the culmination of nearly two decades of travel to Russia. He takes us on a fascinating journey through Siberia's history, from the 13th-century invading Golden Horde to banished Decembrists of the 19th century, Stalin-era prison camps, and enduring rich mineral resources. Siberia as we know it is a cold, barren place of exile; Frazier shows it as that and more as his travels take him through cities and villages, museums, salmon fishing camps, and ice roads. He travels with scientists who can fix car problems with roadside debris and rejoices in airplanes named after writers. Yet Siberia's gulags are slumping barracks, preserved by bitter cold, unmarked and typically avoided. Frazier explores Siberia's vast size and story as well as the region's contradictions. VERDICT Highly recommended for history buffs, armchair travelers, and lovers of a good essay. [Ten-city tour.]—Melissa Stearns, Franklin Pierce Univ. Lib., Rindge, NH [Page 98]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

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. (Oct.) [Page ]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The author of Great Plains examines the unforgivable region of Siberia, including its geography, resources, native peoples and history, in a book full of Mongols, fur seekers, tea caravans, American prospectors, prisoners and exiles of every kind and so much more.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Examines the unforgivable region of Siberia, including its geography, resources, native peoples, and history, with stories of Mongols, fur seekers, tea caravans, American prospectors, prisoners, and exiles of every kind.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Examines the unforgiving region of Siberia, including its geography, resources, native peoples, and history, with stories of Mongols, fur seekers, tea caravans, American prospectors, prisoners, and exiles of every kind.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

The author of Great Plains examines the unforgivable region of Siberia, including its geography, resources, native peoples and history, in a book full of Mongols, fur seekers, tea caravans, American prospectors, prisoners and exiles of every kind and so much more.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

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 Archpielago.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.

Review by Publisher Summary 6

A Dazzling Russian travelogue from the bestselling author of Great PlainsIn 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 inThe 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.