Friday, 13 January 2012

Read in 2012 - 1: Russland

Russland is the German term for Russia, as you have probably guessed if you didn't know already anyway. This book about Russia was written by Thomas Roth, a German journalist who worked and lived in Russia for years, being the official correspondent of one of Germany's national TV stations.
(At present, he is head said national TV station's office in New York.)

This gives him the unique position of knowing a lot more about the country and its people than an average tourist or business traveller would know, but at the same time still keeping an outsider's perspective.

At no time in the book does the author pretend to know something he can not prove; there is an appendix of foot notes with information regarding the documents, articles, books and TV programs he quotes. 
The book is mostly well-written - I say "mostly", because there are bits I find surprisingly bumpy for someone who is a professional writer and has been doing this for a living for many years.

In German, there are two forms of addressing someone; the informal "Du" for people who we are on first names terms with, and the formal "Sie" we use when we address someone as Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so. This difference in adressing others is not exclusive to German; many other languages know it, too. In German, the third person plural is also "sie", but with a small s, as opposed to the capital S in the formal address.
Now, throughout this book, only the "sie" with the small s is used, even where it should correctly be a "Sie" because a person is directly addressed.
At first, I thought this was an error of typesetting, but as it never changed, I now believe this was done on purpose - for whatever reason, I can not fathom. It did bother me.

On the other hand, the whole book is very interesting and fascinating. I learnt a lot about how events past and present influence not only everyday life in Russia, but how that influence stretches to all of Europe, including, of course, Germany. The author manages to bring the big picture into an understandable context with the small detail, and I enjoyed reading it.

The book is not a travel guide. The subtitle reads "The True Face of a World Power", and that is what Mr. Roth has attempted, and, as far as I can tell, well achieved.


  1. I recently bought a book called Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier which I do hope to read this year - it may actually take me a year. :<) More here:

    Maybe we could compare notes.

  2. Yes, Nan, I hope you are going to post about it once you've read it.
    While I was still reading "Russland", there were two very interesting articles about Russia in my weekly paper, plus I happened to come across a documentary on TV that tied in nicely with it. Don't you just love it when you suddenly find something about the same topic on various media to complete your reading & learning experience?

  3. I do! And just the other day I heard a radio report of a guy traveling on the Trans Siberian railroad. Let me see if I can find a link for you.......

    hope it works.

  4. Thank you, Nan, I am listening to it right now!