Portobello, £16.99 Order for £15.29 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

White Fever, By Jacek Hugo-Bader

You don't want to use the roads in Siberia if you can possibly help it – which is why most travellers take the train. When Polish writer Jacek Hugo-Bader decides to give himself a 50th birthday present and "drive east alone across an entire continent", emulating the rebel manifesto of his generation, Vanishing Point, what he gets is more like Mad Max on the steppes.

Gangs of bandits roam the roads attacking any traveller unwise enough to be on their own. No car will stop for anyone who has broken down, in case it's a trap. Many drivers travel with a shotgun poking out of the window so that they can blast away, not just at attackers but at any road sign, advert or noticeboard they pass. Hugo-Bader does once stop for a car lying in the ditch, and finds the couple inside have been attacked. The wife has been killed by a spanner that the bandits hurled through the windscreen.

Along the way, he investigates the fallout from the old Soviet Union: the HIV, the alcoholism, the radiation-related illnesses around the nuclear-testing sites of Kazakhstan. He talks of the worst social disease that affects the Russians – indifference: "Dreadful, cold indifference, which in its acute form becomes deep, irrational and spontaneous contempt."

White Fever is a portrait of a country still in free fall, with the odd pocket of idealism or spirituality. Hugo-Bader spends time with shamans near Mongolia, the hippie community of Moscow and also with the followers of "one of the six Russian Christs", Vissarion. He has established a teetotal commune in Siberia where the women wash their husbands' feet each night.

This is not travel-writing lite – no fridges being carried around countries or quirky postmodern takes on identity. The model remains a traditional one: go to a tough part of the world and tell us what it is like. Tim Butcher is one of the few British writers following a similar vein. His book on the Congo, Blood River, was a bestseller, showing that there is more of an appetite for such hard-nosed travel reportage than publishers might think.

Hugh Thomson's 'Tequila Oil' is published by Phoenix

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

    What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

    Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
    Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

    Are you a 50-center?

    Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
    The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

    Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

    The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
    Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

    Hollywood's new diet trends

    Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
    6 best recipe files

    6 best recipe files

    Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
    Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

    Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Atwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works