SIBERIA, SIBERIA by Valentin Rasputin


Email this review


 This lyrical meditation on Siberia by one of Russia's best- known contemporary novelists (Live and Remember, 1978, etc.) mingles the spiritual and historical for a portrait of its hero- -Siberia itself. July 1996 is a timely publication date for the English translation of Rasputin's tribute to Siberia. Now that the Cold War is over, the time has come for Americans to put aside narrow images of Siberia as the home of labor camps and endless iciness. In his exceedingly romantic, even spiritual essay, this native son presents a multifaceted portrait of his homeland, offering reflections on subjects as wide-ranging as architecture, history, geography, ecology, and anthropology. Connecting it all is Rasputin's deeply felt Siberian patriotism and his environmentalism, both of which contain clear moral and spiritual dimensions. He decries ``Russia's practice of squeezing out and hauling off all the best in Siberia while dumping its worst there, including human rejects,'' and brings a fresh perspective to the current debates on colonialism. The environmental devastation of his homeland, especially of the incomparable Lake Baikal, plays a pivotal role in Rasputin's activism directed at repairing the damages caused by years of Soviet rule. Indeed, Rasputin's tale of the destruction of Siberia's natural beauty by countless dams and factories is a parable for the fate of Russia itself. He writes: ``Maybe nature stands between God and human beings. And until you unite with nature, you won't move forward. It won't let you.'' With a melodramatic religious fervor for national salvation that echoes Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Siberia, Siberia vividly admonishes Russians to return to a purer relationship with their own history and natural surroundings, and it holds up Siberia as the image of both Russia's past sins and her potential redemption. (16 photos, 2 maps)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8101-1287-6
Page count: 380pp
Publisher: Northwestern Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996


NonfictionTHE HOUSE OF THE DEAD by Daniel Beer
by Daniel Beer