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July 8, 2011 10:07 pm
White Fever: A Journey to the Frozen Heart of Siberia, by Jacek Hugo-Bader translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, Portobello, RRP£16.99, 336 pages
In 1957 two Soviet journalists wrote a book called Report From the 21st Century in which they predicted what the USSR would be like 50 years hence. In 2007, Polish journalist Jacek Hugo-Bader, who was born in 1957, set out, in winter, to drive from Moscow to Vladivostok to compare that idealised future with the reality of modern, post-communist Russia.
White Fever is a funny, enlightening and thoroughly engaging piece of reportage. Hugo-Bader eschews grand descriptions in favour of brilliant vignettes of his encounters with the people who live there. Driving an old gas-guzzling Jeep, he hangs out with former hippies (including one who recalls being interrogated by Vladimir Putin), has an audience with Comrade Kalashnikov and stops in Semipalatinsk, site of the Soviet nuclear weapons tests.
Clear-eyed and curious, Hugo-Bader offers a riveting tour of this benighted land.
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