The Spirit-Wrestlers

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9780006388777: The Spirit-Wrestlers

The new book from the acclaimed author of The Crossing Place and The Bronski House.

In Moscow, a man points on a map to the place where he was born. He is a Doukhobor, a ‘spirit-wrestler’, a member of a group of radical Russian sectarians. He is pointing to a village beyond the southern steppe, at the far south of the old Russian empire: ‘I was born here,’ he says. ‘On the edge of the world.’
So begins Philip Marsden’s Russian journey – perhaps the most penetrating account of Russian life since the Soviet Union’s collapse made travel possible again. In villages unseen by outsiders since before the revolution, he encounters men and women of fabulous courage, larger than life, dazed by the century’s turbulence. By turns wise, devout, comic, they seem to have stepped straight from the pages of Turgenev, Gogol and Babel. Marsden meets such figures as the Yezidi Sheikh of Sheikhs, an exiled Georgian prince and a cast of passionate scholars, stooping survivors of the gulags, strutting Cossacks and extreme, isolated sects of Milk-Drinkers and Spirit-Wrestlers.
The Spirit-Wrestlers peels away the grey facade of post-Soviet Russia and reveals a people as committed as ever to answering that great Tolstoyan question: how a man should live. Even more than in The Bronski House and The Crossing Place, Philip Marsden shows that behind the horrors of the Soviet years the human spirit remained triumphant. In so doing, he shows himself to be one of the most exciting and original travel writers of his generation.

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Review:

From the reviews of The Bronski House:

‘Magnificent… a Polish Wild Swans meets Dr Zhivago, written in some of the most exquisite prose in the genre since the death of Chatwin.’
William Dalrymple, Sunday Times Books of the Year

‘A tragic story, beautifully told.’
Colin Thubron, Daily Telegraph Books of the Year

‘The book I’ve savoured most this year.’
John Fowles, Spectator Books of the Year

From the Back Cover:

In Moscow, a man points on a map to the place where he was born. He is a Doukhobor, a ‘spirit-wrestler’, a member of a group of radical Russian sectarians. He is pointing to a village beyond the southern steppe, over the Caucasus, at the far south of the old Russian empire: ‘I was born here,’ he says. ‘On the edge of the world.’

So begins Philip Marsden’s Russian journey – perhaps the most penetrating account of Russian life since the Soviet Union’s collapse made travel possible again. In villages unseen by outsider since before the Revolution, he encounters men and women of fabulous courage, larger than life, dazed by the century’s turbulence. By turns wise, devout, comic, the characters in 'The Spirit-Wrestlers' seem to have stepped straight from the pages of Russian literature – from stories by Turgenev or Gogol or Babel. In scenes of vivid intensity, Marsden meets such figures as the Yezidi Sheikh of Sheikhs, Pushkin the wandering doctor, an exiled Georgian prince, as well as a whole cast of passionate scholars, stooping survivors of the gulags, strutting Cossacks, fervent Old Believers, and extreme, isolated sects of Milk-Drinkers and Spirit-Wrestlers.

Philip Marsden peels away the grey façade of the new Russia and reveals a people as committed as ever to answering that great Tolstoyan question – how a man should live. Even more so than in 'The Bronski House' and 'The Crossing Place', this third post-Soviet journey shows that behind the horrors of the Communist years the human spirit remained triumphant. In so doing it confirms Marsden as one of the most exciting and innovative writers of his generation.

Praise for 'The Crossing Place'
Somerset Maugham Award 1994

“A wonderful journey recounted with knowledge, humour and a beautiful, elegiac sadness”
NICHOLAS WOLLASTON, 'Observer'

“A beautifully written book, with enough incident and observation to convey the unpredictabilities of real travel”
NOEL MALCOLM, 'Sunday Telegraph'

'The Bronski House'

“The book I’ve most savoured this year … Marsden has a dazzling gift for poetic evocation”
JOHN FOWLES, 'Spectator'

“Marsden’s intelligence and tact and the vividness of his imagination put him into a very high class of European writers.”
PETER LEVI, 'The Good Book Guide'

“A tragic story, beautifully told.”
COLIN THUBRON, 'Daily Telegraph'

“Magnificent … a Polish 'Wild Swans' meets 'Doctor Zhivago'“
WILLIAM DALRYMPLE, 'Sunday Times'

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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