Fatland’s anecdotes are rich and revelatory ... Sovietistan blends complex history with Fatland’s own clear-eyed reporting, the devastation of the Soviet era always in the background (and sometimes the foreground). With the Russian Bear once again on the move, she plumbs the high cost of dictatorships and the human yearning for self-determination. Sovietistan is a perspicacious, vital book about little-known places and real lives; it deserves a wide readership.
All credit...to Norwegian social anthropologist and author Erika Fatland, who may have titled her central Asian travelogue Sovietistan, but who treats each of this clumsily named collective with care and attention. Part travel diary, part sociopolitical analysis, Sovietistan seeks to keep in mind the region’s ancient history—dictated to Fatland with metronomic accuracy by identikit tour guides in the various city museums—while probing what may lie ahead ... Fatland’s eye for the distinct nature of these countries—seamlessly conveyed in Kari Dickson’s translation—is critical.
...engaging ... She conjures the laden caravans of the old Silk Road, pyramids of saffron at the Siyab market in Samarkand and dust on the fabled Pamir highway. Her biographical sketches of the giants of history are strong ... Kari Dickson has fluently translated the book. Fatland produces some excellent phrases — that still-burning methane crater ‘looks like a glowing mouth' ... like most books, Sovietistan is too long.