Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $4.49 shipping
+ $4.62 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Travels in Siberia Paperback – September 27, 2011
|New from||Used from|
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2010: Over 20 years after Great Plains, one of the more oddly wonderful books of the last few decades, Ian Frazier takes us to another territory worthy of his expansive curiosity: the vast eastern stretches of Russia known as Siberia. Through the stories of Russian friends, Frazier was drawn there in the early '90s, and he soon fell in love with the country--an "embarrassing" sort of middle-aged love, an involuntary infection. What he loves is its tragedy and its humor, its stoic practicality and its near-insanity: he calls it "the greatest horrible country in the world," and Siberia is its swampy, often-frozen, and strikingly empty backyard. He took five trips there over the next dozen or so years, and Travels in Siberia is based on those journeys. But as in Great Plains, when Frazier travels he follows his own curiosity through time as well as space, telling stories of the Mongols and the Decembrists with the same amused and empathetic eye he brings to his own traveling companions. His curiosity quickly becomes yours, as does his affection for this immense and grudgingly hospitable land. --Tom Nissley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --Keir Graff --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Frazier never really gets into the heads of the locals. Most of his contacts remain names, undignified by description. While there a handful of nice descriptive set pieces of Siberian locations in the book, many come off as not much more than Lonely Planet snapshots. And entirely too much time is spent on the tedious mechanical difficulties of his travel (car repair, slow trains). Frazier often seems held back by his own internal preoccupations.
A larger problem is the book's disorganization and poor writing in many places. The elements described above - history, travelogue, commentary - are jumbled together with messy and nonexistent transitions. The writing in the book frequently breaks down into undigested notes. See for example, this paragraph on p. 366:
"Hotel Angara, Irkutsk. Marble facing of columns in front of hotel held on in places, with clear plastic packing tape. Hotel guests mostly respectable types - Asian businessmen in suits, Russian technicians in shirtsleeves, a girls' volleyball team. At buffet breakfast, volleyball girls tall and gawky-graceful as sandhill cranes in a grain field. In Irkutsk, finally, true Siberian cold (Vladivostok, by contrast, more temperate, with more southern location, ocean nearby). Angara River frozen three-quarters of way across: in sun, frozen part blinding white, open part vivid blue. New statue in riverfront park: Tsar Alexander III, much larger than life, in full military splendor, gleaming imperial black against the surrounding white. Also, at Znamensky Monastery, statue of martyred Admiral Kolchak, also new. Statuary Kolchak bareheaded, heroic, shoulders back, in long coat, with White Army soldier and Red Army soldier supporting statue's base. In our day of wandering, finally got to see inside of Trubetskoy Museum, closed we in Irkutsk before. Prominent in Trubetskoy parlor: Miller foot-pump organ, made in Lebanon, Pa."
There are even grammatical errors within the fragments here: "closed we in Irkutsk before". I might tolerate that on a web site, although I am a fan of the old subject-verb thing. I can't stomach it in a book that costs money. It's a real shame that books no longer have editors. FSG once had them, I believe.
Nonetheless, as much as I appreciate seeing an author's sense of humor and personality shine through a narrative like this, I found parts of Frazier's discourse to be simply grating and tinged with a familiarly uncomfortable, unmistakable East Coast self-importance. As many times as Frazier may call himself a Midwesterner in the text, his worldview is clearly that of an affluent New Yorker. This is perfectly evidenced by his reference to his guide/trip organizer/translator/mechanic throughout Siberia as his `driver'. It took a native Russian teacher later to point out to him that he should call the talented person who shepherded him (and his expensive fishing rods) across thousands of miles of Siberia his `colleague' instead (also worth pointing out that in addition to this man's guide credentials, he's the head of the robotics lab at St. Petersburg State University, hardly a `driver' qualification).
Frazier goes on to display a latent sexism in a passage about the beauty of post-soviet-era Russian women. He marvels at the `beautiful women walking everywhere' in Krasnoyarsk, recalling a negative Cold War American stereotype of Russian female appearance and questioning its origins. In his quest to figure out how Russian women apparently became beautiful, he examines historical male perceptions of Russian women (including that of John Quincy Adams), questions a Russian male friend and then finally agrees with the theory of an American male economist that compares Russian female beauty to a commodity crop. Not once does he ask Russian female friends about this apparent phenomenon; had he taken this simple and evident approach, he might have heard numerous, more logical explanations, including the simple reason of the sudden availability of Western fashions after the fall of Communism.
In general, and as other reviewers on Amazon have pointed out, Frazier's attitude and approach keeps him tied to a high-way or zipped up in a one-man tent for good portion of his travels. As his Russian `drivers' go into towns and villages in the evening and get to know the local people and culture, letting the flow of the journey lead them to new experiences and friends, the author remains a somewhat hesitant observer. His obstinate request to see a Siberian prison causes an obvious cultural disconnect and tension between himself and the Russian guides; once again baring his East Coast mind-set, he seems to believe that the simple act of paying them to show him a prison should override their evident discomfort with exploring this aspect of Russian history.
On the whole, I liked this book. My repeated bouts of irritation with the author's personality, however, chip two stars off of my rating.