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In Siberia [Paperback]

Colin Thubron
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Sep 2000
In the early 80s Colin Thubron wrote a bestselling book about his travels around the Soviet Union in an old Morris Minor. In the late 90s, post Soviet Union, he decided to explore Siberia - this time by truck, by bus, by boat. The result is a wonderfully readable and evocative account of an extraordinary region. He travels through exotic cities and deserted villages, meets nostalgic old Stalinists and aggressive Orthodox churchmen, and generally interweaves Siberia's fascinating history with a vivid description of the place today.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (7 Sep 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014026860X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140268607
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 86,211 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bleak twilight across a forgotten land 1 Oct 2001
"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
4.0 out of 5 stars superior travel writing 17 Jan 2000
By A Customer
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstandingly well-written, spell-binding. 3 Jan 2000
By A Customer
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life In The Wilderness 22 July 2004
The overwhelming feeling one gets from 'In Siberia' is the incredible scale of the region. The depth of research that Thubron conducted prior to this book is evident in his narration. As he travels through this bleak, hostile region, his meetings with native people and notes on the Tsar, Gulag and Shamanism ,among other things, maintain the reader's interest and help to provide a scale and background to a fascinating part of the world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting journey through Siberia 5 Jan 2010
The book is well composed with an insight into the nature and people inhabiting Russia outside of its Western hemisphere. It easily takes one's imagination to a throrough journey. I never got bored of various people and places, which were described with such a magic touch of deepness. Sad and somehow tragical as Russia is the book still finds a spark of good in all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soul of Siberia 30 Nov 2012
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
nice travel book by a curious non-judgemental writer
Published 2 months ago by Valija
4.0 out of 5 stars High quality arm-chair tourism
This book took me through the vast, sparsely populated lands, meeting some eccentric locals but also getting a real feel for how the locals live. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Hiero
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
For me is the best book of siberia's travelling. Great description of the Siberian city and the siberian people. I dream a trik like this.
Published 16 months ago by Francesco Lottici
2.0 out of 5 stars siberia
This is the authors account of a 15,000 mile journey,by many means of transport,through Russia but mainly concentrating on travels in south Siberia from Yakaterinburg in the west... Read more
Published 16 months ago by G. I. Forbes
5.0 out of 5 stars BRILLIANT !!
All I will say is that I'm just reading it fior the third time!! It's so facinating and informative about how people can live and suvive in SUCH extreme climates. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mr. Philip J. Seamark
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting insight
This was an impulse buy in my local Waterstone's. I've read a lot of travel literature, and after reading the reviews of another of Thubron's books, I decided to try this one, as... Read more
Published on 1 April 2012 by S
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting
In Siberia is beautifully, poetically written, as befits an elegy to that huge, largely unknown and somehow frightening tract of land. Read more
Published on 16 Dec 2011 by Jonathan Lake
5.0 out of 5 stars Great travel writing
To start with the conclusion - this is great Travel writing. I can hardly imagine that you will be disappointed provided that you have the slightest suspicion that Siberia might... Read more
Published on 21 Sep 2011 by Jan Øystein Thorsnæs
5.0 out of 5 stars Majesty, mystery and misery abound in Thubron's take on this...
There's something about this superb book that manages to make the work of most other travel writers seem contrived. Read more
Published on 21 Sep 2011 by Cardew Robinson
1.0 out of 5 stars Why does he write a book about a place he dislikes so much?
I started reading this book hopeful as there are few English books about Siberia. How disappointed I was. Every place and person he came across there was something wrong about. Read more
Published on 10 May 2011 by Samuel
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