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A Dream in Polar Fog

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About the Author

Yuri Rytkheu was born in Uelen, a village in the Chukotka region of Siberia. He sailed the Bering Sea, worked on Arctic geological expeditions, and hunted in Arctic waters, in addition to writing over a dozen novels and collections of stories. A Dream in Polar Fog was a Kiriyama Pacific Rim Prize Notable Book in 2006. In the late 1950s, Rytkheu emerged not only as a great literary talent, but as the unique voice of a small national minority - the Chukchi people, a shrinking community residing in one of the most majestic and inhospitable environments on earth.

Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse translated Rytkheu's novel The Chukchi Bible. Born in the former Soviet Union, she now lives in London with her husband and daughter.


Siberian-born author Rytkheu chronicles a Canadian sailor's life among the Chukchi people of northeastern Siberia in a lyrical, instructional novel that reads like an adventure story wrapped around an ethnography. When ice traps John MacLennan's ship in the Bering Strait in 1910, not far from a Chukchi settlement, the youthful, na?ve sailor, trying to widen a small fissure in the ice with dynamite, blows up his hands. His captain hires several Chukchi men to take him by dogsled to a Russian doctor-a long, arduous journey-and vows that the ship will wait for his safe return. But when gangrene sets in, John's hands must be amputated by a medicine woman, and when strong winds break the ice shelf mooring the Belinda, the ship sails without him. The rest of the novel details John's integration into the Chukchi world: adapting to his handicap, adopting Chukchi ways and finding friendship-and love-among his hosts. Even John's role in the tragic, accidental death of his best friend, Toko, only pulls him deeper into the community's folds. Rytkheu's clear, compassionate prose ("Winter days resemble one another like twins") ably evokes a foreign, fragile world. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Kiriyama Prize Notable Book For 2006

Thousands of books have been written about the Arctic aborigines by intruders from the south. Yuri Rytkheu has turned the skin inside out and written about the way the Arctic people view outsiders. A Chukchi him- self, Yuri writes with passion, strength, and beauty of a world we others have never understood. A splendid book. --Farley Mowat Rarely has humanity's relationship to nature been so beautifully and vividly depicted . . . It recalls, in both substance and style, the best work of Jack London and Herman Melville, and it is a novel in the grandest sense of the word. --Neal Pollack

A hypnotic, shimmering new novel. . . . One emerges from the novel and its sudden, jarring, most unusual but spot-on ending dazed, dazzled, snow-blind. --The San Diego Union Tribune A Dream in Polar Fog gave me the same haunting and powerful reading experience as did Melville's travel fictions. Yuri Rytkheu is a world-class writer. Part lyrical ethnography, part uncanny adventure movie, part historical saga, part spectral tone poem, this novel miraculously brings Siberia to the center of our lives. --Howard Norman

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