My Discovery of Siberia

Book - 1970
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Publisher: Toronto : McClelland and Stewart, [1970]
ISBN: 9780771065804
Branch Call Number: 915.7 Mow
Characteristics: 313 p. :,maps. ;,24 cm


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Aug 23, 2017

The subtitle of this book is rather misleading; a better one would have been "My discovery of Yakutia, as well as Irkutsk and Magadan. Except for Irkutsk none of the cities he visited are among the largest cities in Siberia. (My Russian tutor was a Siberian from Novosibirsk so I was disappointed that Mowat did not visit her city, the Siberian metropolis.) He had his reasons for his choices. He was intensely interested in the native peoples of Siberia, some of whom are closely related to the native peoples of the Canadian North (Siberia has its Inuit too) and in Yakutia, to which he devotes most of his Siberian pages, the native peoples are still the largest part of the population. However, it seems to me the subtitle misrepresents the subject and contents of the book.
Mowat is a gifted writer; the pace of the book never lags, always entertaining, often funny and with a gift for rendering landscapes more like a poet's than a prose writer's.
At the same time, I was reminded of Robert Fulford's comment someplace that the Canadian left was absolutely wrong in saying that before the fall of the Berlin Wall, they had never been friendly towards Communism. Mowat, who was always associated with the Canadian left, was never a Communist, but this book surely exposes him as a fellow traveller. Written in 1970, he actually compares the recent 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia for the crime of having a reformist Communist government with Kennedy's supporting Cuban rebels in 1961 in the aborted Bay of Pigs operation. For him, they are just two sides of the same coin! No wonder he was so warmly welcomed by his Communist hosts!

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