Joanna Kavenna

Tracks in the Snow

Reindeer People: Living with Animals and Spirits in Siberia

By

HarperCollins 464pp £20 order from our bookshop

Siberia is the great white blankness in the Russian imagination, a place of emptiness and darkness, associated with disappearance and abandonment. In his seminal account of his northern travels, In Siberia (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1999), Colin Thubron describes it as a place where humans and animals are dwarfed by the vastness of the ice-fields, rendered little more than smudges on the snow; a land, he adds, of ‘bleak beauty, and an indelible fear … the ultimate, unearthly Abroad. A place from which you will not return.’ It is a blankness into which millions of Russians disappeared during the last century, left to decline, lost in the snows. For Dostoevsky Siberia was a ‘House of the Dead’, its whiteness like suspense, a gruesome holding place for prisoners; a land where people cast away their identities, trading their names and fates with other prisoners, a sense of self increasingly meaningless against the vastness.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter