I chanced upon a wonderful book. A Dream in Polar Fog is written by Yuri Rytkheu, a Chukchi writer. It is translated from the original Russian by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse. During the Covid-19 crisis, the wonderful people over at Archipelago Books are offering it for free, amongst many of their other books.
I have always like Russian literature – it is rich, poetic and most authors write of a world we know very little about. There was always a smattering of fantastic books by Maxim Gorky, Mikhael Sholokov, Pushkin and Boris Polevoi around in my childhood. And I still own so many books that were translated into English by Progress Publishers. One day, I would love to visit. But in the meantime, books!
What I loved about this book is that it is set in a remote area near the Kamchatka Peninsula, where a Canadian sailor is stuck. What starts off an as entrapment in John’s mind turns into life at the end of it. The stunning polar tundra is described in detail – the endless snow, the fauna of the bears, foxes and walruses, and the dance of the norther lights. An imaginative mind is welcomed to dance with the words. Shamans preach and hunters hunt in these far byond nowehere lands, and it is fascinating to learn how the Chukchi survive.
It is week 3 of isolation here in the UK and this book was great to put everything into perspective. So many communities like these are proponents of simple living and being one with nature. Eat what you can gather, save up for the harsh winters and share even if you have little – all of these things come through John’s life. But now, they are all starting to come through in all of ours too – as the world is struggling to adapt to the new normal.
The book is free, so I 100% recommend it. And stay safe, wherever your home is.