A Dream in Polar Fog by Yuri Rytkheu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
People often say when they enjoy a book that they're sorry when it's over. I rarely say that because I'm always anticipating the next book I'll read!
With this historical novel, however, I really was sorry when it was over because I doubt I'll ever read a book like it again.
The author, Yuri Rytkheu, grew up in a traditional Chukchi settlement in Siberia in the early 20th century when that way of life was already fast disappearing. He wrote this novel in 1968.
The story follows a Canadian sailor who is seriously injured on a voyage and left behind in a Chukchi village. He adapts to his strange surroundings and comes to accept and eventually love his new life. Rytkheu uses his outsider protagonist as a way to explain the Chukchi way of life and cosmology. We're given a sympathetic, authoritative view into a culture vastly different than our own, shown with a sympathetic but not rose-tinted view. The story is well told and there are some beautiful passages about the Arctic landscape. Anyone interested in the far north or simply a good read would do well to hunt down this book.
Sadly, as far as I can tell Rytkheu never wrote another novel. He did write a few nonfiction books on his people that have been translated and I'm planning on hunting those down.
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