Monday, November 15, 2010

Travels in Siberia

Travels in Siberia
by Ian Frazier
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. 529 pgs. Non-fiction.

Finding himself suddenly infatuated with Russia in the early 90s, Ian Frazier began a series of forays into the land. Hopping across from Alaska to a Siberian outpost he becomes besotted with that land, so long synonymous with exile, solitude, and unimaginable cold. As usual, Frazier's narrative is filled with fascinating background: history, geography, art, warfare, flora and fauna. Having explored the fringes, Frazier undertakes a cross-continent journey with a couple of Russians in a decrepit van. What ought to have been the defining journey of the book bogs a bit because Frazier seems so frustrated by his circumstances that the trip becomes something he wants to have done, but doesn't enjoy doing. But although this is not the seamless narrative we have come to expect from him, Frazier still fills the pages with terrific stories of murderous Tatars, star-crossed Tsars, and dueling poets, not to mention sky-darkening mosquito swarms and generous fish poachers. Ian Frazier is one of the great prose stylists of our time or any other and his portrait of the vast reaches of Mother Russia should not be missed.


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