In Siberia

I have been reading “In Siberia” on my trains by Colin Thubron (Penguin), lent to me by my colleague Mary – overspilt with bleak catalogue and commentary. Here he is on children:

“The richest people in Potalovo are the children. They drive tractors and bulldozers, own houses, sail ships. The fact that all these possessions are wrecked makes no difference. They are a simulacrum of the adult world. So the children keep house in burnt-out cottages, or climb into the cabins of tractors and roam the tundra on vanished wheels.

Sometimes they man the bridge of the beached and derelict cargo ship, and steer for the Arctic Sea. Only when they stop being children do they realise that they are inhabiting a world of ruins.

At the age of twelve or thirteen, said Nikolai, they start to drink.”

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