Siberia

Siberia is Nikolai Maslov’s personal account of his life as a young man coming of age against the desolate backdrop of Russia. The autobiographical tale spans several decades and offers insight into life within the vast Siberian countryside, Maslov’s army stint in Mongolia and later as an art student who seeks opportunity in Moscow. This personal story may be too ambitious a scope for a novel so short in length. Siberia is told in translated text which could be why the flow is a little choppy and the ending abrupt; however, pleasure if found in the wandering eye that Maslov uses to explore details, particularly in his treatment of the landscape. Like in Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware, the full panel landscapes steal the show. Although somber at times, unlike Ware’s Corrigan, Siberia manages to touch upon optimism throughout. As a result the harsh realities of Siberian life are depicted with soft edges. The ugliness of the drunken brawling men and empty store shelves are all rendered in grayscale, carefully with pencil in a hazy style that clearly reveals Maslov’s impressionist influences. Maslov’s true potential is revealed in the tiny transitional pieces where tenderness is the main sentiment. I was taken by his foggy retelling of the last time he saw his dad and the sweet way he depicts the serendipitous meeting of his wife. Despite its awkward pacing overall it’s in these subtle moments that Siberia transcends and becomes a pleasure to behold. (S. Malik)

by Nikolai Maslov, $19.95, 93 pgs, Soft Skull Press, 55 Washington St. Suite 804, Brooklyn, NY, 11201, softskull.com

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