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Travels in Siberia
by Ian Frazier

Published: 2011-09-27
Paperback : 560 pages
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New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the YearA Boston Globe Best Book of 2010A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of 2010A San Francisco Chronicle Top 10 Books of 2010A Washington Post Best Book of the YearA Kansas City Star 100 Best Books of 2010A St. Louis Post-Dispatch Best of 20...
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Introduction

New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year
A Boston Globe Best Book of 2010
A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of 2010
A San Francisco Chronicle Top 10 Books of 2010
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
A Kansas City Star 100 Best Books of 2010
A St. Louis Post-Dispatch Best of 2010

In this astonishing new work from one of our greatest and most entertaining storytellers, Ian Frazier trains his perceptive, generous eye on Siberia. With great passion and enthusiasm, he reveals Siberia's role in history?its science, economics, and politics?and tells the stories of its most famous exiles, such as Dostoyevsky, Lenin, and Stalin. At the same time, Frazier draws a unique portrait of Russia since the end of the Soviet Union, and gives a personal account of adventure among Russian friends and acquaintances. A unique, captivating, totally Frazierian take on what he calls the ?amazingness? of Russia?Travels in Siberia is ?a masterpiece of nonfiction writing?tragic, bizarre, and funny? (San Francisco Chronicle).

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2010: Over 20 years after Great Plains, one of the more oddly wonderful books of the last few decades, Ian Frazier takes us to another territory worthy of his expansive curiosity: the vast eastern stretches of Russia known as Siberia. Through the stories of Russian friends, Frazier was drawn there in the early '90s, and he soon fell in love with the country--an "embarrassing" sort of middle-aged love, an involuntary infection. What he loves is its tragedy and its humor, its stoic practicality and its near-insanity: he calls it "the greatest horrible country in the world," and Siberia is its swampy, often-frozen, and strikingly empty backyard. He took five trips there over the next dozen or so years, and Travels in Siberia is based on those journeys. But as in Great Plains, when Frazier travels he follows his own curiosity through time as well as space, telling stories of the Mongols and the Decembrists with the same amused and empathetic eye he brings to his own traveling companions. His curiosity quickly becomes yours, as does his affection for this immense and grudgingly hospitable land. --Tom Nissley

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Excerpt

PART I

Chapter 1
Officially, there is no such place as Siberia. No political or territorial entity has Siberia as its name. In atlases, the word “Siberia” hovers across the northern third of Asia unconnected to any place in particular, as if designating a zone or a condition; it seems to show through like a watermark on the page. During Soviet times, revised maps erased the name entirely, in order to discourage Siberian regionalism. Despite this invisibility, one can assume that Siberia’s traditional status as a threat did not improve. ... view entire excerpt...

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Praise:

“[Travels in Siberia is] an uproarious, sometimes dark yarn filled with dubious meals, broken-down vehicles, abandoned slave-labor camps and ubiquitous statues of Lenin—On the Road meets The Gulag Archipelago . . . As he demonstrated in Great Plains, Frazier is the most amiable of obsessives . . . he peels away Russia’s stolid veneer to reveal the quirkiness and humanity beneath . . . Frazier has the gumption and sense of wonder shared by every great travel writer, from Bruce Chatwin to Redmond O’Hanlon, as well as the ability to make us see how the most trivial or ephemeral detail is part of the essential texture of a place . . . [An] endlessly fascinating tale.” —Joshua Hammer, The New York Times Book Review

“Frazier is a sophisticated, intense writer who—Twain-like—uses a deceptive style of naiveté and comic self-deprecation to carry serious perceptions.…Always beautifully written, often very funny, serious, and moving in its cumulative impact.” —The New York Review of Books

“While the hand- and mind-numbing trip through geographic purgatory couldn’t have been a joy, the humor and genuine awe Frazier injects into his depictions are the stuff of a great vicarious vacation. Grade: A-” —Entertainment Weekly

“Frazier is besotted, happy, free, on high alert, drunk with space….He expands to fill it, and his awe is contagious.” —Los Angeles Times

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