Last night’s long subway ride afforded us an opportunity to start reading Ian Frazier’s Siberia travelogue in the latest New Yorker. So far, it’s every bit as astounding as we’d hoped—the long digression about Siberian butter, in particular, made our inner magazine geek nearly burst with glee. What can we say, we’re absolute suckers for Frazier’s brand of narrative non-fiction—and, of course, jealous of his gig. What Microkhan wouldn’t give to be dispatched to the frostiest reaches of the globe, and instructed not to come back until we had 20,000 words worth of killer material.
The surest sign of Frazier’s achievement, though, is the fact we spent much of the morning following up on one of his asides—namely, a brief comment that conditions at the Kolyma gold mines had arguably been the worst in human history. We couldn’t let a claim like that just dangle in the wind, so we’ve been busily reading up on Soviet forced labor while getting caffeinated for the day. We’ve been particularly absorbed in the site for The Gulag Museum at Perm-36, which bills itself as “the only Russian museum for the history of political repression.” Then there’s this online exhibit, from which the photo above is taken—that’s how much bread a gulag inmate received each day, assuming he or she had fulfilled their work quota.
If you’re a truly robust soul, also check out this account of female suffering in the gulag system. The color illustrations by former inmate Evfrosiniia Kersnovskaia will stick with you for a long, long time.