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Stand Up the Real Colin Thubron!,
This review is from: Among The Russians (Paperback)
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.
A writer is fully entitled to reveal, or to hide, as much as himself as he chooses. But a bit more of Colin Thubron, the man, would give his travel books an additional vital dimension. Perhaps - after reading "In Siberia" - I should try his novels!