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Among The Russians [Paperback]

Colin Thubron
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 April 2004
Among the Russians is a marvellous account of a solitary journey by car from St. Petersburg and the Baltic States south to Georgia and Armenia. A gifted writer and intrepid traveller, Thubron grapples with the complexities of Russian identity and relays his extraordinary journey in characteristically lyrical style. This is an enthralling and revealing account of the habits and idiosyncrasies of a fascinating nation along with a sharp and insightful social commentary of Russian life.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (1 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099459299
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099459293
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 40,367 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A distinguished travel writer and novelist, Colin Thubron was named by the Times as one of the fifty greatest post-war writers. His books include Among the Russians, Behind the Wall, In Siberia and the New York Times bestseller Shadow of the Silk Road. He has won many awards.

Product Description


"The Soviet Union is seen through a glass brightly... What makes the book so readable is Thubron's combination of an artist's aesthetic sensitivity with the literary craftsmanship to convey it. He sees things with the freshness of an innocent and the erudition of a scholar" (Daily Telegraph)

"Superb... one of the best books on Russia to appear in years" (New York Times)

"Travel writing has never been more provocative, profound or poetic" (Time Out)

"The Thubron approach to travelling has an integrity that belongs to another age. And this author's way with words gives his books a value far transcending their topical interest; it is safe to predict they will be read a century hence" (Irish Times)

Book Description

'A magnificent achievement' - Nikolai Tolstoy, The Times

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best single volume book about Russia 30 May 2004
By berlin
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Don't be put off by the fact that this was written before the fall of the Berlin Wall - the Russia it writes about is still so recognisable that if you have been there it gives you a lump in the throat to read about it. Unlike Van der Post's Journey into Russia, Thubron writes more about the individuals he meets than the system itself, and in the process manages to paint a portrait of an entire nation. What sets this book above over travel books on Russia is Thubron's ability somehow to put all of Russian literature into the book, with chapters that evoke Pushkin, or Tolstoy, or Chekhov. It is hard-nosed but lyrical, and full of beautiful images, juxtaposed with one another and allowing you to feel the experience as well as just reading about it. Some of the characters are so well evoked you somehow feel afterwards that the encounters are not Thubron's but your own. The pace and power of the book do not slacken until the final line, which packs a punch all of its own. If you are going to Russia, or to the Caucasus, or even to Central Europe, make sure you read this first. It may only be 212 pages long, but it has an epic quality that many books twice the size lack. Recommended without reservation.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellously written account 26 Aug 2007
An absorbing and excellently written account of the author's travels throughout the western Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1980s, chronicling his fascination and exasperation with the people he meets and the experiences he undergoes. The quality of writing makes this a joy to read.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stand Up the Real Colin Thubron! 7 Jun 2007
I wondered, when ordering "Among the Russians", whether the fact that it had been written a quarter of a century ago, about a world that had apparently disappeared, would detract from the impact of the journey. I need not have worried as it has the immediacy of a trip completed yesterday.

The book perhaps - and understandably so - does not quite have the fine polish of the recent "Shadow of the Silk Road", my first experience of Thubron, but is none the less beautifully written and absolutely fascinating. The combination of the unorthodox travel arrangements for the time (a car), the poetic and precise (I checked Google Images while reading "Shadow of the Silk Road"!) descriptions of places, the intimate and thoughtful portraits of people and, particularly impressive, the provision of a detailed historical context, make for a compelling read. Extra thrills, including a dramatic conclusion to the book, were thoughtfully provided by the KGB.

With all this it might seem unnecessarily querulous to ask for more. But in both these books we are left with a feeling that the author has, perhaps unconsciously, fenced off a part of his personality and his activities. In this age of "letting it all hang out" we are sometimes left with unanswered questions, sometimes on simple practical matters.

On the one hand, a voyage, especially a solitary one, involves constant and often stressful interaction between the traveler and his surroundings. We do see a lot of this but are often left trying to imagine details. On the other, it is often marked by long periods of silence when the traveler, a long way from home, will reflect on his life, loves, beliefs and hopes. Aside from a few memorable incidents, we do not see very much of this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transported to Russia 19 Jan 2010
Colin Thubron is my favourite travel writer. He has the ability to transport you to the places he has visited. Writes in a natural yet compelling way and I love all his books. Can't go wrong with any of them.We just need to have them made available on Kindle.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solving the riddle and unwrapping the mystery 24 Jun 2013
By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER
At first I wondered if it was worth spending time on a travelogue of 1980s Soviet Russia written before "perestroika" and "glasnost" triggered the fall of communism. Was the book only of interest to those who could relate with nostalgia to, say, being pestered for jeans, instructed to take hands out of pockets when filing past Lenin's coffin, intrigued by the job creation scheme of a middle-aged lady seated on every hotel corridor, and depressed by the lack of goods for sale in the gloomy grandeur of the GUM state department store?

Relevance seemed unimportant as I became ensnared by the novel-like quality of Thubron's writing, so that I was not surprised to note that he has in fact written a good deal of fiction.

Also, the book proves of value, in its vivid and perceptive analysis of Russia as a basis for understanding how it reached its current state - apparently materialistic, corrupt and increasingly unequal.

Thubron asks whether "the easy Russian submissiveness to God and tyranny....the unwieldy immensity of Russian bureaucracy" is the result of a people crushed by the vastness and impersonal isolation of their country. Yet, some of them like nothing better than picking mushrooms in the birch woods.

An extreme example of conditioned thinking is the woman who insists a statue is holding a torch. "The torch should be there, so it was there. It was an emotional fact". Yet in complete contrast a man falters, "Not to be subjected to a laid-down principle, only to be governed by what you find is so. It's harder but right.
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