26 February 2008

A Dream in Polar Fog

I posted back in October that I'd had no luck finding a book for Melissa's challenge by a Siberian author. Well, I finally found one this week.

A Dream in Polar Fog is by Yuri Rytkheu, a Chukchi. It was published in Russian in 1968 and is set in the years just before the Russian Revolution. The main character is a Canadian sailor, John MacLennon, whose hands are seriously injured and who is abandoned by his ship while trying to get medical help. He stays with the Chukchi people and his life changes dramatically.

I would have loved it if this book had been written from Pyl'mau's point of view instead of John's (although there are a few times we know Pyl'mau's thoughts). Even though John changes a great deal over the course of the book, having it told from his perspective still gives it an outsider-looking-in feel instead of an insider-letting-us-see-in feel.

Since it was written during the Soviet years, you can't avoid at least a little propaganda. But for a Soviet book, this one isn't too heavy on that propaganda. All Americans in the book are bad, Canadians are possibly redeemable, and Russians are about non-existent. And capitalism isn't looked on too highly.

I enjoyed the book, although I wouldn't recommend it to everyone simply because it's not amazing, and you'd probably need at least a passing interest in the native peoples of Siberia to want to read it. I'd be interested in reading his other books.


  1. Interesting: 1) there are Siberian authors; 2) Canadians are redeemable; and 3) a book written (and published) in 1968 Russia not heavy on the propaganda. Go figure. :)

  2. Sorry it wasn't better since you've waited so long to find a Siberian author.

  3. I actually liked it quite a bit. It just wasn't amazing. But I think you'd like it.