cover image White Fever: A Journey to the Frozen Heart of Siberia

White Fever: A Journey to the Frozen Heart of Siberia

Jacek Hugo-Bader, trans. From the Polish by Amtonia Lloyd-Jones. Counterpoint, $26, (336p) ISBN 978-1-61902-011-5

"Now watch out. In this chapter the words 'die,' 'kill' and 'death' appear more than fifty times... If that doesn't suit you, don't read on," writes Polish journalist Hugo-Bader in a chapter of his book, covering the 21 suicides of a town in eastern Siberia. The author spent several months traveling through the region, exploring the bleak life there--and the people who bravely attempt it. But not always successfully. It makes for grim, but, at times, intriguing reading, especially chapters on Arzamas, whose people suffer the fallout from the USSR's nuclear bomb tests nearby, and Gorod, "the only place in Russia where I meet happy people." The town is home to one of the three men in Russia who claim to be Christ. To these vivid profiles and the dreary environment, the bleak lives of its inhabitants, the author brings a taut, straightforward style and black humor. Some references will stump readers not familiar with Russian culture, but Hugo-Bader is an amiable and observant guide on a painful and illuminating journey. Photos, map. (Oct.)