Gessen’s delicate prose and deft skill as an interviewer combine with Friedman’s haunting photography to produce a partial record of the ruins of Soviet prison camps in Sandarmokh, Perm and Kolyma, and of the fraught memorialization efforts that followed perestroika and the Soviet Union’s collapse ... Friedman’s large-scale monochrome photographs capture these fragments in haunting detail, blowing them up as if to magnify the paucity of information they contain. Never Remember is a chilling verbal and visual archive of what Walker calls 'the Russian case of forgetting.'
...a short, haunting and beautifully written book ... The melancholy that saturates Ms. Gessen’s prose is reinforced by pages filled with Misha Friedman’s bleakly evocative photographs, images that convey unease, absence and loss ... This is an angry book. Ms. Gessen makes her case with a series of vignettes ranging from the discovery of a mass grave in northwestern Russia to a trip to the region of Kolyma in the country’s far east. ('If the Gulag was anywhere, it was in Kolyma.') The years of glasnost and Boris Yeltsin finally provided pitifully small scraps of comfort to the descendants of the disappeared—a photograph, a death certificate, something—yet the Gulag’s poison continues to seep through the generations.
[Never Remember] will trouble your sleep for a long time ... Of late, the Putin regime has disguised the horror of the camps behind the fabricated belief that Stalin was an exceptional leader responsible for the success and power Russia has as a country today. Gessen and Friedman depict the truth behind the walls of these camps through a collection of documents and photographs that taken together offer a searing rebuttal to Russian revisionism.
Friedman’s moody, panoramic black-and-white photos of the memorial sites convey a narrative that’s fragmented, blurry, and ultimately incomplete, perfectly underscoring Gessen’s text. The combination is a powerful meditation on contemporary Russia as seen through its relationship to the past.