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In Siberia Paperback – 7 Sep 2000


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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (7 Sept. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014026860X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140268607
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 121,020 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

Amazon Review

At 58, Thubron had already lived 10 years longer than the average Siberian when he made his 15,000 mile trip and was as much a novelty to locals as they were to him. Until 1991, foreigners were only allowed along the Trans-Siberian railway. Now all is open, as Thubron writes: "The exhilaration of freedom never quite left me." In In Siberia he searches for the "core of Siberia"--a difficult quest in a land mass larger than the USA and Europe combined.

Siberia is Russia's wild east--pillaged by the Cossacks for furs, later populated by exiles and prisoners, who diluted the native culture of hunters and Mongol-Turkish nomadic tribes. Thubron travels from unknown town to unknown town, hunting at sunset for shelter. Some of it is as bad as you would fear--endless, uninhabitable, treeless tundra, frozen solid eight months a year. There are ghostly gulag towns like Vorkuta with its smoke stacks, "black detritus", and death camps where prisoners worked 12 hours a day, living in minus 40 until death (usually two weeks).He finds grim broken-down people living only for vodka, freedom having escaped them again. "Scarce jobs and high prices were the new slave masters."

At other times In Siberia is more surprising--the rebirth of Christianity and eager building of monasteries; Mongol shamans; the 2,500,000- year-old mummified remains of a princess; sweaty 85 degree temperatures; Akademogorodok, an abandoned science city where a lone professor experiments with cosmic consciousness.

Like many of the people he meets, Thubron's book is weighed down by history, but it does succeed in quenching the curiosity about that great blank in the Atlas. --Sarah Champion --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Colin Thubron is the author of six novels and a number of bestselling travel books, including Among the Russians and most recently The Lost Heart of Asia - all of them are available in Penguin. He lives in Holland Park, London.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By The Hammer of Barnston on 1 Oct. 2001
Format: Paperback
"In Siberia" is Thubron's painstakingly bleak account of a journey across the cold, oddly unknown region of Siberia. He begins his assessment of post-Soviet Russia at the Ural Mountains, and travels slowly west, following broadly the route of the trans-Siberian railway. His account is one of enduring struggle, against both the cold (in Dudinka, where the River Yenisei meets the Arctic Ocean, houses must be build on concrete pillars, otherwise the heat exerted by the foundations will melt the permafrost that lingers just a few feet beneath the ground, and cause the building to subside), and the economic collapse that has followed the collapse of communism. For most of those he meets, it is the everyday necessities of survival - food and warmth - that form the focus of their lives.
In parts, one can sense a fond yearning for the days of the Soviet Republic - when the collective farms functioned properly, with working tractors, to produce food for all. Now the mechanics of such planned economies have disintegrated, prices have spiralled upwards, the savings of the old have been rendered worthless and the young have little enthusiasm, other than to leave. Despite this, some do still find space to find hope, perhaps in the renaissance of forgotten religions, or perhaps simply in some strained, optimistic view of the future.
Throughout the book the shadow of the Gulag, the Soviet labour camp, lingers. Throughout Stalin's reign, criminals, political opponents, or simply those that were deemed to be a threat, were sent to the bleak wastes of Siberia for imprisonment.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Jan. 2000
Format: Paperback
His writing is often so lovely I turn the page back just to read it again (doesn't happen often). Sometimes it wants to be poetic but is oblique and impenetrable. But the man can write far, far better than most. I spent three months in Siberia and I recognise all his characters, he conveys the desperation of the place beautifully, the shabbiness, but also the pride and the physical dimensions. Towards the end, the travel writing framework got wearying - not another priest drinking in a hut - but then he delivers the final chapter, which is superb and shocking and serene, and he is forgiven the slight tediousness or tiredness leading up to it. And for once, a travel writer who speaks the language of the country he/she is visiting, and doesn't pretend to by neglecting to mention translators. All in all, readable and memorable and a far cry from sunday supplement travel puffery.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Jan. 2000
Format: Paperback
This is an extraordinary book. Once again, Colin Thubron manages to unlock a hitherto unknown part of the world to his readers. His eloquence makes one feel as if one was there with him. His description of the Stalin Gulags was so horrific that it was almost unbearable to read. The cruelty of the country and the desperate sadness - or perhaps confusion - of the people is tangible. One aches for them and with them. No book could better bring to life this country which embodies so much of the history of the once mighty Soviet Union and which was once locked away from the rest of the world. It is a must.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cardew Robinson on 21 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
There's something about this superb book that manages to make the work of most other travel writers seem contrived. Inspired it seems by the relatively pure motive of wanting to find out what Siberia is really like, Thubron ventures across the whole territory, and is so doing has fashioned a hard-to-put-down book that reveals a landscape and a people that are equally distinctive.

Thubron is adept at providing the necessary jaw-dropping statistics about the sheer size of the place when needs be. He is also equal to the task of evoking this landscape in many finely written passges. However, the number of pages devoted to geography and topography are dwarfed by the number of encounters with real people. This is no bad thing, since Thubron clearly has a talent for getting on with people and for engaging them in conversation, and in turn he is very skilled in drawing a revealing pen-portrait. Whether it's a man who claims to be directly descended from Siberian native Rasputin, or the Doctor tending to a decaying village of hopeless, hapless drunks in the far north, a survivor of the Gulag, or the KGB man turned Baptist preacher in Siberia's west, many of these people will stay in your memory. In the absence of any real answer to what Siberia is like, Thubron doesn't contrive to provide his own answers and instead reveals a lot more about the place by showing what effect it has had on some of the people who actually dwell there.

Overall, Thubron is sympathetic to these people and the region without being sentimental. He clearly respects the fortitude many of them show, and does them some kind of service by rendering so clearly the often harsh plights in which they find themselves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By superblues on 30 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
Siberia fills one twelfth of the land-mass of the whole Earth, the much area is considered to be the wastelands, and it is the place where many people wouldn't wish to visit, as a consequence of political corruption and industrial ruins in the Siberia.

Colin Thubron completed the 15,000 mile epic, travelling with defective trains and buses and meeting with various people, e.g. descendants of religious shamans, Gulag survivors. He grips the reader with his first impression of Siberia: "A bleak beauty and an indelible fear". His precise and haunting prose matches the subject perfectly and gives the reader picture of the life of people who have lived in the most desolate and dispiriting places on earth, blending the stories of the past and present of Siberia. His findings include a number of moving and uplifting accounts people who have lost their distant and close families, relatives, and friends being murdered and executed by the political affairs, killed by work-related incidents and illness caused by the cold and inhospitable weather, and the people who have demonstrated strong determination to continue to live with their life despite the ordeals that they have to live with industrial ruins of Soviet Union in the wide areas.

This travel writing will greatly affect each reader and keep him/her haunting of series of dire memories.
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