The Evenks – a Siberian people who have been cut off from their traditions and are dying of the titular white fever – are drinking themselves into destruction. Communism has taken away their feeling of belonging, their culture, religion and customs. The political system forced the Evenks to take part in the functioning of a socialist country, after the fall of which they were left alone and became useless and superfluous. Their doctor Lubow Passar has 1757 patients - all alcoholics.
reaches them by travelling in a Russian off-road vehicle. In the opening reportage entitled Hood Toward the Wind
(Maską w stronę wiatru
) book White Fever
) he writes: “I was probably the only madman travelling across this ocean of land unarmed and alone as well”. This way of travelling enables Bader to reach people who credibly talk about contemporary Russia – a decaying empire and also a country that has great potential.
“White fever (drunken insanity) is a result of a long alcoholic binge, which in Russian is called zapoy. The symptoms of white fever are a lack of fear, hallucinations and aggression. The post-Soviet world described by Hugo-Bader is a reality in delirium tremens… Tourists don’t stray into such areas, such places aren’t recommended by travel agencies. This is an area of all kinds of vagabonds” - Mariusz Wilk.
I went to the Soviet Union a few times in 1991 and 1992 and I didn’t want to do it again. Fantastic people and yet an insult to the mind. Magnificent art and the humiliation of searching with one’s pants down for a piece of toilet paper. Wonderful architecture and a window facing a heap of garbage that reaches to the second floor. Back then I didn’t have enough reportorial understanding, I didn’t have enough determination. And here Jacek Hugo-Bader enters the empire instead of me. When I read his reportages I get the impression that he experiences all these adventures especially for me – the reader. He experiences them on my behalf, so to speak. I know that others get the same impression: they read and they feel that he is their man over there. He goes where I would be afraid to go.
Ryszard Kapuściński described the empire from a bird's eye perspective; he captured the mechanisms of thinking, behaviours and processes.
Hugo-Bader describes the empire from the perspective of a wandering dog; he captures the mechanisms of thinking, behaviours and processes and additionally he catches a rat by the animal’s tail - Mariusz Szczygieł.
Jacek Hugo-Bader (born in 1957) is a reporter for the newspaper “Gazeta Wyborcza”. He loves Russia and the former countries of the Soviet Union, in which he spent a total of almost four years. He travelled through Central Asia, the Gobi Desert, China and Tibet on his bicycle. He paddled across Lake Baikal on a kayak. He is the author of the book In the Paradise Valley Among the Weeds (W rajskiej dolinie wśród zielska) which was nominated for the NIKE literary prize. He is co-creator of the documentary Jacek Hugo-Bader. Correspondent in Poland (Jacek Hugo-Bader. Korespondent z Polszy). He was awarded the Grand Press prize on two occasions (1999, 2003). He received the main awards of the Polish Journalists Association twice. White Fever was among the books nominated for the 2010 Ryszard Kapuściński Award. In 2011 Kolyma Diaries appeared in book stores in Poland.
Translated by: Marek Kępa
White Fever: A Journey to the Frozen Heart of Siberia
Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Portobello Books, London
Published: 3 May 2012
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 336 pages