Monthly Archives: August 2010

RUSSIA / A Journey to the Heart of a Land and its People

A truly marvellous journey from Murmansk to Novgorod, from Moscow to the Caspian, from Astrakhan to the Urals, from Ekaterinburg to the Altai mountians and from Irkutsk to Vladivostok. Not to mention Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy’s home where he wrote Anna Karenina and War & Peace. With listen_ins in St. Petersburg to Valery Gregiev conducting  and Renne’ Fleming rendering Richard Strauss’s four last songs.
I must say this is one of the most enjoyable books I have read about Russia, by English writer Jonathan Dimbleby. This book is a mix study of the Russian psyche, literature, history, even charm and of course its natural beauty [the sky so bright that your spirits soar with the shear joy of life on earth].
The book also describes the new Russian generation, noisy, casual, confident, glued to iPads and mobiles, bantering, arguing and flirting, careless and fearless.
At some points, the book turns into self purpose questions and the author pulls himself back from depression. He writes “The truth is I am lost. Nothing shocks me, nothing surprises me, nothing touches me. Why don’t I give up the perpetual round of meetings, contracts, editorial battles, e-mails, long journeys, uncomfortable hotels, the nerves, the anxiety about meeting new people.” Still, for him, the journey has been at times fascinating, illuminating, challenging, frustrating, entertaining, saddening and at times heart-warming.  Luckily for us readers and viewers the writer never gave up.
There are comments as well about the darker side of Russia under Stalinism and communism, when “subversives” like Vladimir Bukowsky, Yuri Orlov, Anatoly Sharansky and Sergey Kovalev were held at Gulags and the bureaucracy of cruelty was meted out.
After reading the book, I ordered the BBC-televised series on two DVDs through a friend in the UK. I am sure that watching the series will be as enjoyable, if not more than reading the book.
I love travel and travel books, and this did not disappoint.
Here is a short clip where the journey begins…