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Travels in Siberia Hardcover – October 12, 2010
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Read the first chapter from Travels in Siberia [PDF].
Top Customer Reviews
I lived and worked in Siberian and the Russian Far East for several years in the 1990s. Frazier has always been one of my favorite authors; he is king of detail. "On the Rez" was a phenomenal book. Missing my second home, Russia, I snatched up Travels in Siberia the instant it became available.
I'm going to start with the limitations of this book:
1. East of Chita and Yakutia, the locals uniformly call their land the "Russian Far East." They do not call it Siberia, any more than people from Idaho or California call their land the Midwest. Just like Americans have the Midwest and the West, the Russians have the corresponding landlocked Siberia and the coastal Far East. It perpetuates Westerners' geographic misnaming of the region.
2. Leaving the history of Siberia's Indigenous peoples out of the book. This is the most egregious oversight of this book, and it's particularly perplexing given Frazier's history researching and writing "On the Rez." Can you imagine an author writing on the history and the experience of the Dakotas without mentioning the Sioux? This book manages to paint Siberia and the Russian Far East as the historic battleground of Russians and the Mongols, without mentioning the couple dozen tribes - of Asian, Turkish, or European descent - that migrated to, lived in, and defined Siberia for centuries before either the Russians or the Mongols arrived. In a few of these regions, Indigenous peoples still outnumber Russians, and it is still common to hear the native languages spoken on the streets or in government offices. Frazier writes about two visits to the Republic of Buryatia without clarifying that Buryatians are Indigenous descendents of the Mongols.Read more ›
But precious little of these evocative prose have to do with his two travels through Siberia. Most of that is just as much of a slog for us as it was for him. And, he is such a whiner. I'm all for honesty in travel writing. There's a place for how bad the toilet situation is, but so much of this book details the uncomfortable beds, the poor food, the ragtag breakdown vehicles, the frightening roads. I.F. worries about everything. It's sort of like Woody Allen complaining for 1000s of miles and hundreds of pages. It's funny for a while but gets old fast.
I enjoyed his initial excursion into NE Siberia from Alaska (though I could have done without his days worth of grousing and complaining and the details of awaiting a flight from Nome), but I think I.F.'s mistake was making the book about Siberia. As much as he likes the idea of it, he's obviously more suited to cities. He seems most enthusiastic when he's telling us about St Petersburg.
One thing I really have to thank him for is making me aware of Langston Hughes's I wonder as I wander. I had no idea that L.H. traveled through Central Asia and across the USSR. LH put up with a lot worse than I.F. did but had a lot more fun and wrote a much more readable book about it. I'm half way through that now and would give it 5 stars.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book! Very interesting and thought provoking. And truthful as I can judge living in Siberia. Should be translated to Russian though, could be interesting for people who do... Read morePublished 20 days ago by Amazon Customer
Given Ian Frazier's good reputation and his "New Yorker" magazine articles, I was very disappointed by this book-length "travelogue. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Marc E. Nicholson
The closest I've come to Russia was Harbin, China, which is northwest of Vladivostock, and I was happy to be an armchair traveler in Ian Frazier's well-researched company. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Experienced seminar leader
Good writing should have either deep character development or an engaging story. Great writing might have both. This book has neither. Read morePublished 5 months ago by G
Excellent. Suggest all who are interested in Russia, especially from a US-Alaskan point of view should read it!Published 6 months ago by Kitsap Buyer
This guy is a seriously talented writer. I wasn't sure how I would go with a travel book, and I always thought Siberia was just freezing cold and an enormous land mass. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Connor
Frazier rambles through Siberia several times, driven by a basically inexplicable craving for more. He catalogs the journey with enjoyable, matter-of-fact informality, regarding... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Brian Griffith
I never have had any interest in Siberia - never been there and never wanted to go. My sense of the place was an empty vastness, swampy with short buggy summers and long, cold dark... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Nemoman