Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier

Travels in Siberia is BIG, and I thought the vast expanse of white cover particularly appropriate, too--just like the place. It seems peculiar to describe a trip (several trips, actually) across Siberia and say honestly at the end: "nothing much happened," but that about sums it up. For a traveller, nothing (unexpected) happening can be a very good thing, and readers can take heart that we had such a pleasant and wryly funny guide to the biggest country on earth ("too big, really"). I, for one, was very glad Frazier did this trip for me. While I am curious about Siberia post-USSR, I really cannot see myself hiring a van and a translator...Later in the book we read about Dervla Murphy who shows up in Severobaikalsk on a BICYCLE. I made a note to look up that trip report.

By we time we get to the last chapter (Chapter 30) in Travels, we have been steeped in Russian lore for so many pages that the litany of bald facts regarding Russia selling off its enormous resources of natural gas, oil, rare earth minerals, and rare animal parts is sickening and disheartening. We have come to care for Siberia, mistreated and remote as it is, and respect it's plucky population. The exploitation of it's riches seems imprudent, careless, and short-sighted--perhaps even grotesque. We would hope that such an outsized country would have outsized leadership, but this is earth, not heaven. God bless us, every one.

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