Thursday, January 26, 2012

arctic snow

Currently reading Ian Frazier's book on Siberia, a region that inevitably calls to mind games of Risk! in which Irkutsk and Yakutsk usually had little strategic importance, and also exiles and such. It was the coldest place in the world, a place where one's breath freezes in mid-air and falls to the ground, not a place I think of when I think of a place where people live and such, or a place with lush green forests, which makes me reconsider the visual geography in my head as opposed to what actually exists. 

Curled up in a blanket on the couch with a pot of tea and a bowl of noodles, it's been hard to put down, with its evoking of a world so different from my own, places I know little about, people I never knew existed. It makes me remember why I love to read and why in a much more introverted time, I spent most of my time in the company of books. We had found "Sputnik Turista" tour guides of some of these places like Khabarovsk, but most of these showed bureaucratic buildings and monuments of Lenin that only cemented a kind of desolate imagery cast in ice and concrete. A certain politician once claimed to see Russia from her house, and while that might have been stretching it, it's not that far away.

There's also a volume from another kind bibliotheque of Folktales of the Amur, which I'll get to next but initially was drawn to due to the almost psychedelic illustrations with imagery and symbolism inspired by the folk art of that region like the cloth above. Despite claims of equality and brotherhood and the propaganda of "red westerns" with heroic Native Americans taking down the White Man, the treatment of the people who lived there for thousands of years wasn't much better, though the sheer vastness of the land precluded any concept of reservations. Still, these are lovely. RioWang has more of the story here.

1 comment:

  1. Yakutsk not strategically important? Oh, we need to play a game (obviously, I'm kidding about the former).

    Only snow & gulags, fools are we: those mushrooms, and that punk squirrel, definitely rocketing up the list of Places I Want To Visit But Never Will Dammit.