A fascinating travel book by one of the most magical writers of his generation.
Colin Thubron is the master of classic travel writing, and a previous winner of the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award. His first writing was about the Middle East - Damascus, Lebanon and Cyprus. In 1982 he travelled all over Russia in an ancient Morris Marina - pursued at every stage by the KGB. From these early experiences developed his travel books- Among the Russians, Behind the Wall, The Lost Heart of Asia and In Siberia (all available in Vintage). So great is his dedication to travelling in Russia and China, that he has learned Russian and Mandarin in order to be able to speak to ordinary people en route. Colin Thubron is also a prize-winning novelist - but his travel books have a much higher profile and command much greater sales than his fiction. He lives in West London.
Many adventurers plunge into Siberia in search of untrammeled roads or unspoiled grandeur; only a handful bring with them a significant knowledge of the land's history, geology and wildlife. Even rarer are those who relay the experience as magically as does this award-winning author. Thubron (The Lost Heart of Asia) recounts a journey studded with fantastic encounters: in Pokrovskoye, a peasant who claims to be a descendant of Rasputin wrestles with his own identity as he nears the age of the infamous holy man's death; in Omsk, wizened grandmothers talk of skinny-dipping in holy water; in the Pazyryk valley, excavators remove a prince, his concubine and a team of stallions from two and a half millennia of frozen slumber; in Kyzyl, a local shaman places an order for Scottish walrus tusks. The author marvels: "wherever I stopped seemed atypical, as if the essential Siberia could exist only in my absence." In fact, that phantom essence pervades Thubron's journey, which stretches from the site of the grisly murder of the Romanovs to the Far Eastern epicenter of the brutal penal camp system that killed millions of Soviet citizens. More than a report of an inquisitive traveler's adventures, Thubron's account doubles as a haunting elegy to the victims of the bloodshed and hardship that are Siberia's most lasting legacy. Only his tender treatment of Siberia's enchanting characters and extraordinary natural beauty brighten what would be an otherwise dark and desolate path. 4-city Author tour. (Jan.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
In this powerful, final volume of his trilogy on the Asian continent (Where Nights Are Longest, The Lost Heart of Asia), veteran travel writer Thubron traverses all points of the compass in Russia's vast, sparsely settled Wild East. Thubron journeys into what "seems less a country than a region in people's minds," encountering people in search of explanations for past atrocities and ways to live through current hardships--all the while finding solace in science or religion. In Novosibirsk, Thubron visits the scientific center of Russia, Akademgorodok, a place where funding has been severed and brilliant minds live isolated in laboratories without electricity. Several weeks and worlds away, Thubron reaches the far-eastern city of Khabarovsk. From there he flies to the eerie skeletal structures of Siberia's most famous gulag, Kolyma, where up to two million prisoners died. Thubron's well-researched, moving account is a testament to the hardships endured by Siberia's people and their ability to turn their backs on history, look to the future, and whistle a hopeful tune. Readers who enjoyed Jeffrey Taylor's Siberian Dawn (LJ 2/15/99) will appreciate Thubron's deeper, meditated exploration of Siberian life. Highly recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/99.]--Mark Rotella, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
I have never made it as far as Siberia, but reading this book makes
me feel as if I have actually been there. Thubron weaves his own
observations beautifully with the history of this part of the world
-- Lorraine Kelly * Sunday Express *
Colin Thubron is in a class of his own in [having] a literary talent for reportage which is both crisp and lyrical * Scotsman *
Captivating: a passionately engaged portrait of one of the earth's most mysterious regions...confirms Thubron's place in the pantheon of the writing greats * Sunday Times *
There are currently few writers and fewer books capable of transporting a reader to another place as beautifully as Thubron does in this work. It is simply superb * Observer *
A profound meditation on how some of the great upheavals of this century touched ordinary lives -- Kazuo Ishiguro * Observer, Books of the Year *