Kolyma Diaries

A Journey into Russia’s Haunted Hinterland

Jacek Hugo-Bader

Published: 3 April 2014
Trade Paperback, A5
148x210mm, 368 pages
ISBN: 9781846275029

Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.


From the author of the award-winning White Fever, Kolyma Diaries is an excursion into one of the world's last remaining badlands, a place full of Gulag ghosts and living wrecks. All along the 2000 kilometres of the Kolyma highway, Bader is plied with vodka. He hears mesmerizing, sometimes devastating, tales of the journeys that brought his 'fellow travellers', the people who give him lifts, to this benighted land. This is a book about the descendants of prisoners eking out a living, of conmen and veterans and scrap iron dealers, of corrupt politicians and organised crime. Stories are told of sons given away, husbands who reappear after three decades, scholars who now survive by foraging for mushrooms and berries, sculptors who hoard the heads lopped off statues of Lenin, miners who dig up mass graves while looking for gold, and all the addicts, convicts, fallen heroes and even sportsmen who run away from their troubles and end up in the most remote region in Russia

About the author

Image of Jacek Hugo-Bader

Born in 1957, JACEK HUGO-BADER is a Polish journalist for the leading daily paper, Gazeta Wyborcza. An unconventional traveller, he has biked across Central Asia, the Gobi Desert, China and Tibet, and has kayaked across Lake Baikal. His journey by jeep from Moscow to Vladivostok in the winter of 2007 is described in his book, White Fever. More about the author


‘A rich gallery of characters with gripping stories to tell’ Tom Adair, ‘Travel book of the year’



‘Hugo-Bader doesn't do things by half... He leaves us with a sense of wonder’ Kapka Kassabova

‘Hugo-Bader extracts brilliant tales from the extraordinary characters he meets. A staggering, eye-opening account of a hellish region’ Carl Wilkinson

‘Hugo-Bader succeeds in bringing [the people he meets] to life with his funny, engaging, thought-provoking prose. Excellent’ Greg Jones

‘Hugo-Bader's journey through the bleak suspended reality of Kolyma is a pilgrimage like no other. The cumulative effect on the reader of his stark diary entries is overwhelming. In a place where the cold itself is murderous, every chance meeting is at once a moral encounter with the Soviet legacy of cruelty and loss, and a source of primal warmth. Kolyma Diaries is a powerful and courageous work of witness - often funny, always unflinching in its confrontation with human sorrow’ Rachel Rolonsky, author

‘I have never read a book that more purely captures the strangeness of travel in remote bits of Russia... A fascinating composite impression of one of the wildest bits of one of the world's weirdest countries... told by a masterful traveller’ Oliver Bullough

‘It is a testament to Hugo-Bader's skill and the strength of his subjects that the book is not only charming, but life-affirming’

‘One of the most memorable travel books I have read, sometimes hilarious and sometimes almost unbearably sad stories of death, courage, cruelty and vodka. Jacek Hugo-Bader has travelled in some of the strangest and most remote reaches of Siberia, but what he has brought back are stories of the furthest reaches of the human spirit. Magnificent’ Andrew Brown, author

‘Powerful stuff, written by a man who seems to be the natural heir to Ryszard Kapuscinski’ Giles Foden

‘Unsparing with facts and unflinching with specifics’

‘Vivid... [a] lively and colourful account’ Jack Carrigan

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