Hot Best Seller

Siberian Education: Growing Up in a Criminal Underworld

Availability: Ready to download

"Marvelous and illuminating. . . . Forces us to reassess our notions of good and evil."—Irvine Welsh In a contested, lawless region between Moldova and Ukraine known as Transnistria, a tightly knit group of "honest criminals"—exiled there by Stalin-live according to strict codes of ritualized respect and fierce loyalty. Here, tattoos tell the story of a man's life, "honest" "Marvelous and illuminating. . . . Forces us to reassess our notions of good and evil."—Irvine Welsh In a contested, lawless region between Moldova and Ukraine known as Transnistria, a tightly knit group of "honest criminals"—exiled there by Stalin-live according to strict codes of ritualized respect and fierce loyalty. Here, tattoos tell the story of a man's life, "honest" weapons are separated from "sinful" ones, and authority is always to be distrusted. Beyond the control of any government and outside the bounds of "society" as we know it, these men uphold values including respect for elders and an unwavering adherence to the truth with passion-and often by brute force. In a voice utterly compelling and unforgettable, Nicolai Lilin, born and raised within this exotic subculture, tells the story of his moral education among the Siberian Urkas. A bestseller in his home country of Italy, this unique tale of an extreme boyhood "will produce a thrill of pleasure that is hard to forget" (Roberto Saviano).


Compare

"Marvelous and illuminating. . . . Forces us to reassess our notions of good and evil."—Irvine Welsh In a contested, lawless region between Moldova and Ukraine known as Transnistria, a tightly knit group of "honest criminals"—exiled there by Stalin-live according to strict codes of ritualized respect and fierce loyalty. Here, tattoos tell the story of a man's life, "honest" "Marvelous and illuminating. . . . Forces us to reassess our notions of good and evil."—Irvine Welsh In a contested, lawless region between Moldova and Ukraine known as Transnistria, a tightly knit group of "honest criminals"—exiled there by Stalin-live according to strict codes of ritualized respect and fierce loyalty. Here, tattoos tell the story of a man's life, "honest" weapons are separated from "sinful" ones, and authority is always to be distrusted. Beyond the control of any government and outside the bounds of "society" as we know it, these men uphold values including respect for elders and an unwavering adherence to the truth with passion-and often by brute force. In a voice utterly compelling and unforgettable, Nicolai Lilin, born and raised within this exotic subculture, tells the story of his moral education among the Siberian Urkas. A bestseller in his home country of Italy, this unique tale of an extreme boyhood "will produce a thrill of pleasure that is hard to forget" (Roberto Saviano).

30 review for Siberian Education: Growing Up in a Criminal Underworld

  1. 5 out of 5

    Marc Nash

    In my review of Lilin's other book "Free Fall", I said that his writing about the war in Chechnya knocked the spots off Vietnam War books. And in this, his earlier memoir about his childhood, Siberian criminal culture is laid bare and knocks all Mafia tales into a cocked hat. Exotic, brutal and frankly bizarre, it's a tale of an old culture with all its values and mores that seem to derive from another planet. But the book is undeniably fascinating. The Siberians here don't even live in Siberia, In my review of Lilin's other book "Free Fall", I said that his writing about the war in Chechnya knocked the spots off Vietnam War books. And in this, his earlier memoir about his childhood, Siberian criminal culture is laid bare and knocks all Mafia tales into a cocked hat. Exotic, brutal and frankly bizarre, it's a tale of an old culture with all its values and mores that seem to derive from another planet. But the book is undeniably fascinating. The Siberians here don't even live in Siberia, but in a region between Moldova and Ukraine after exile under the Communists as Siberia became the preserve of the Gulags and the local 'honest' criminals were displaced in the prisons by political prisoners. A fiercely proud and independent criminal culture who stubbornly resisted integration under the Communists, now find themselves trying to preserve their independent traditions in the face of the new Russia and Capitalism. They have a strange mix of Orthodox religion and criminality, in which God is used in elliptical codes that the police and authorities can't pierce. They refer to themselves as men of honour, bringing the justice of God to their criminal, anti-authoritarian activities. The bodycount is high in the book, for those who dishonour the strange etiquette built of honourable behaviour. And yet this etiquette is utterly predicated on respect like any Mafiosa, albeit one more embedded on your actual deeds, rather than naked shows of power. The language and etiquette apart from being religious is also rather poetic and lyrical, because it's formal. "Dignified criminals introduce themselves, exchange greetings and wish each other every blessing even before they start killing each other". It's like something out of Shakespeare's portrayals of high nobility. They are criminals and yet their code demands they remain humble. They eschew flagrant shows of wealth. The money is really only spent on every day living, guns and religious icons. They despise gangsters who wear gold, instead they have their copious tattoos tell their stories for them. At the time of writing this novel, Lilin was a professional tattooist in Italy, bringing his native skills with him. It's hard to see quite why these criminals worked so hard to rob for money, when they didn't really spend it, other than helping out less fortunate members of their community, which usually meant widows of other criminals who maybe wouldn't have needed financial help if their men hadn't worked so fatally hard being criminals... In fact the most money appearing in the book was for a community raised reward to track down the perpetrators of the rape of an autistic girl. And the strange rules of the community meant that only the juveniles could go about seeking out the perpetrators and seeking justice, because they equated to the same age of the victim. This chapter was seriously fascinating and alienating in equal counts. A postcard from a seriously exotic outpost of the world.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    This was a First Reads giveaway for which I am grateful, but I finally had to abandon this one, which is unfortunate because many of the stories were interesting but I just could not get into it. The writing style (or lack thereof) was one factor in my decision as it was simply too vague and jumped around from vignette to vignette with little to no rhyme or reason. It was difficult to follow since there was no continuous storyline. I understand that should be expected with an autobiography but i This was a First Reads giveaway for which I am grateful, but I finally had to abandon this one, which is unfortunate because many of the stories were interesting but I just could not get into it. The writing style (or lack thereof) was one factor in my decision as it was simply too vague and jumped around from vignette to vignette with little to no rhyme or reason. It was difficult to follow since there was no continuous storyline. I understand that should be expected with an autobiography but it was too distracting. My biggest hang up is with the overly glamorous, romanticized depiction of these criminals. I knew I was reading about a culture that was very different from my own, but at the same time the sense of realism was missing. It read like the author's bright and rosy memories leaving out the dirtiness and reality of that kind of life. There were many inconsistencies with statements like they would not be captured alive by authorities/police unless gravely injured and yet almost all of them spent many years in jail. It seems unlikely that they would all have fought to the death prior to capture given the inordinate amount of them being jailed. It just never came together for me and I ended up giving up because I felt I was having to force myself to read it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Meaghan

    I received this book free through Librarything's early reviewers program. This certainly is an extraordinary story, soaked in gore in a Painted Bird sort of way. Nicolai Lilin claims he has murdered multiple people, and so has almost everyone he grew up with, including one guy who killed thousands of policemen and kept their badges. While he was in juvenile prison he witnessed numerous gang rapes, some of which were made into child pornography films, and there were several more murders. The s I received this book free through Librarything's early reviewers program. This certainly is an extraordinary story, soaked in gore in a Painted Bird sort of way. Nicolai Lilin claims he has murdered multiple people, and so has almost everyone he grew up with, including one guy who killed thousands of policemen and kept their badges. While he was in juvenile prison he witnessed numerous gang rapes, some of which were made into child pornography films, and there were several more murders. The society he grew up in, he says, was criminal but certainly not lawless; in fact, it looks like it had more laws than most "normal" civilizations. I do wish more page space had been given to the role of women -- who barely exist in the story -- and how it was that Lilin grew up to be a law-abiding tattoo artist in Italy. I hate to say it, but I find myself questioning the memoir's authenticity. I'm not going to say anything one way or another because I don't know enough about the region, but I don't understand how such a society could continue to exist almost into the 21st century, and I wonder how these people lived and what they lived off of. This is, nevertheless, a galloping read. Take that for what it's worth.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Greenockian

    I finally admit defeat. I tried. I honestly did try but this book is just not worth the time or effort. I basically don't know whether it's a load of baloney and the work of the author's imagination or just uninteresting. I simply did not care what happened to the main character and could not buy into the macho, bulls**t world he lived in. Boring. Dull. Not worth the money I paid...and that was in a book sale!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alan Teder

    Siberian Fabrication Review of the Emblem Edition english translation paperback (2011) of the Italian language original Educazione siberiana (2009) Some enjoy life, some suffer it, we fight it. - Old saying of the Siberian Urkas. Such are the ways of the pandemic that in your search for variety you start pulling books from the shelves that you have never actually read before. I originally sought out Siberian Education (2011) when I heard that it was being made into a film with John Malkovich, one o Siberian Fabrication Review of the Emblem Edition english translation paperback (2011) of the Italian language original Educazione siberiana (2009) Some enjoy life, some suffer it, we fight it. - Old saying of the Siberian Urkas. Such are the ways of the pandemic that in your search for variety you start pulling books from the shelves that you have never actually read before. I originally sought out Siberian Education (2011) when I heard that it was being made into a film with John Malkovich, one of my favourite actors. Unfortunately the film wasn’t that great, and then various articles also appeared which debunked the source autobiography as being an invention by author Nicolai Lilin. I put it aside then but picked it up again recently. Despite the debunking, Lilin still has an entertaining way of telling his story, which is an extended fantasy which builds on various preconceived notions of mafia behaviour and urban myths about honour among thieves. The story goes from childhood through to young adulthood at a time when the fictional Nicolai aka Kolima is drafted into the Russian Army, a story that is continued in Lilin's followup Free Fall: A Sniper's Story from Chechnya. Nicolai Lilin. Lilin's "Siberians" are a closely knit band of thieves called Urkas (presumably the word is derived from the Russian word урки (urki) for thief. They were supposedly deported from 1930's Siberia to the Transnistria region of Moldavia at a time when Stalin's deportations were actually proceeding in the opposite direction. In Transnistria they kept their former customs and criminal behaviours in apparent complete defiance of the pervasive communist totalitarian state. Various words, customs and philosophies are referred to as "Siberian" although they are obviously Russian in origin. So, for instance, it is called the "Siberian" Orthodox Church rather than the commonly understood Russian Orthodox Church. Lilin certainly understood his audience and plays up all sorts of urban myths about robbing from the rich on behalf of the poor. There is also a distinct religious element to the band with almost all speeches delivered as prayers and requests for God's blessing on their activities. It was all convincing enough that authors such as Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting etc.) and Roberto Saviano (Gomorrah etc.) blurbed the book at the time of its original release. Trivia and LInks The main debunking article is the Russian language Tattooed Cranberries (2011) by Elena Chernenko. I see some references to English language debunking articles in other reviews. I'm usually quick to note references to Uralic/Finno-Ugric peoples due to my Estonian heritage, so I couldn't help but notice this passage in Siberian Education:Soon afterwards Zilya fell ill. Her condition deteriorated, and no medicine could cure her. So Svyatoslav took her to Siberia, to see an old shaman of the tribe of the Nency, a people of Siberian aborigines who had always had very close ties with the Siberian criminals, the Urkas. The "Nencys" are the Nenets people of the Samoyedic branch of Uralic languages. "Nency" is a transliteration of the Russian word ненцы, which is usually transliterated as "Nentsy." Pretending "close ties" to a shamanistic tribe is another way that Lilin uses to add an aura of mysticism to his story of criminals.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tara

    I can safely say that I've never read anything quite like this book. it starts almost as a straightforward anthropological study of an ethnic criminal gang in the eastern reaches of the Russian Federation: mores, manners, gender roles, rites of passage, jailhouse traditions, and tattoo meanings. The book eventually turns to an unsentimental autobiography of the author's coming of age, leading to him joining the Army during the Chechnyan conflict. Fascinating and disturbing.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Isa K.

    Siberian Education starts off with the following disclaimer: This memoir is based on the author's own experiences. Names have been changed, characters combined and events compressed. Certain episodes are imaginative recreation, and those episodes are not intended to portray actual events. The first part of that disclaimer is fairly standard, the second part is not and it can't help but color your judgement of this ludicrously violent tale of honor of among thieves. I kind of wonder if this disclai Siberian Education starts off with the following disclaimer: This memoir is based on the author's own experiences. Names have been changed, characters combined and events compressed. Certain episodes are imaginative recreation, and those episodes are not intended to portray actual events. The first part of that disclaimer is fairly standard, the second part is not and it can't help but color your judgement of this ludicrously violent tale of honor of among thieves. I kind of wonder if this disclaimer was in the original (italian) release of this book or if it was something they added later in the wake of the waves of popular memoirs where shit was just made up (*cough* James Fry), because it seems to me that it's stupid to structure the book as a inside look into the elaborate rituals and rules of the criminal underworld if you're going to have a 'oh yeah some of this is total bullshit' disclaimer hanging over it. This book is absurdly violent and directionless. The chapters are far too long ("My Birthday" weighing in at a staggering 150 some-odd pages. A SINGLE CHAPTER) and ladened with so many digressions you begin to lose track of what's going on. It would have been better to split each digression into its own chapter where the many colorful characters of the criminal community could be introduced in their own context and then referenced as they became important in Nicolai's escapades. Actually it would have been much better to structure the book around Nicolai's relationship with his best friend Mel rather than trying to force it into becoming some strange ethnography of Russian criminal culture. Mel is Nicolai's constant companion, a clueless thug incapable of understanding the rules that govern their society nor the strategy required to thrive within them. Nevertheless his loyalty and earnestness keeps him from being shut out of Nicolai's life even as he brings progressively more trouble to the table. It's Nicolai's realization that he will never be able to build a future for himself outside the criminal world until he casts off Mel that's the turning point of the book. By making the focus the rules and customs the writer did a great disservice to what could have been a really interesting read. To begin with you won't find much here that you can't gleam from other (far more credible) sources. Descriptions of rules and practices that are unique to this story seems so absurdly impractical, the punishments for breaking even the tiniest rules so extreme, one can scarcely imagine any society surviving like this for very long. Russian organized crime does have elaborate culture and rituals, but those are always secondary to survival and business. Lilin's description of them comes off as very idealistic and childish if not outright fabrication (and with such a disclaimer hanging over the book...). Almost lost among the violence and romanticism of crime is the book's most profound point: the ugliness and inherent unfairness of justice. Nicolai lives in a world where official justice is run by corrupt and sadistic figures, conditions in prisons so brutal reform practically impossible. Criminal honor exists to establish law and order in this vacuum (Robert Friedman made this point himself in Red Mafiya), and Siberian Education details Nicolai's slow disenchantment with the justice all the rules support. The violence ultimately restores and resolves nothing, the criminal life that was once a matter of basic survival under a harsh Soviet system is slowly becoming about money and power, "honest thieves" are always under attack by lowly criminals, etc, etc, etc. So basically there's some interesting stuff here but if you're looking for a book about the ins and outs of criminal communities there are much better options.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jay Mccready

    I know I got this book for free, but at the risk of sounding biased I absolutely loved this book! It's written in a straight forward style that's direct and to the point which I found to be really refreshing. You will not find flowery language, run on sentences or fluff here. This is a no holds barred account of growing up in a community where violence is a way of life and it was chilling, disturbing and enlightening all at the same time. I was fascinated by the dichotomy of their culture with t I know I got this book for free, but at the risk of sounding biased I absolutely loved this book! It's written in a straight forward style that's direct and to the point which I found to be really refreshing. You will not find flowery language, run on sentences or fluff here. This is a no holds barred account of growing up in a community where violence is a way of life and it was chilling, disturbing and enlightening all at the same time. I was fascinated by the dichotomy of their culture with thieves and vagabonds on the one hand and yet their sense of freedom, honor, justice and commitment to family and community is enviable. Nicolai's detailed explanations behind the old traditions from the way the criminals interact with one another and those outside of their community (not all criminals hold to the same code of honor) to the story behind the tattooing made me feel totally immersed in his world. I personally could not put this book down. I highly recommended this book for anyone who enjoys reading memoirs with a gritty edge and who isn't bothered by the lack of a feel good happy ending.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    This memoir by Nicolai Lilin is about a community of criminals deported by Stalin known as Siberian Urkas. Initially, you understand it is a story of endless violence, the moral code followed by the "gangs", platitudes spewed out by the elders and Nicolai's education of how to survive as a ruthless gang member. As I read, it felt like I was listening to the author talking at nauseism about all his escapades and his glorification of the activities. It was like hitting a rewind button. I read it t This memoir by Nicolai Lilin is about a community of criminals deported by Stalin known as Siberian Urkas. Initially, you understand it is a story of endless violence, the moral code followed by the "gangs", platitudes spewed out by the elders and Nicolai's education of how to survive as a ruthless gang member. As I read, it felt like I was listening to the author talking at nauseism about all his escapades and his glorification of the activities. It was like hitting a rewind button. I read it to the end because I received it as a complimentary advance reading copy but would not recommend it to any of my friends.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Shainna

    I gave up. There were too many lies and untruths and errors that I'm disgusted this was ever published. If you want to read about the Vori v zakone, find a different book. If you want to learn about Siberians, this book will tell you nothing. If you want to read about violence, here you go. Just know that it's not true.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Vaiva Sapetkaitė

    This is a strange book, but in a good way. I found it engaging, but rather too long. Nothing essential wouldn't be lost, if it was made 1/3 shorter. I would be glad, if its writing style would be more elegant, but maybe when a russian is writing in italian and later it is translated to lithuanian it could be expected.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Patrick O'Neil

    Repetitious, sophomoric, homophobic, and unapologetic... an editor's heavy hand would've helped - but in the end the judgmental condescending attitude of the author made me give up way before the end.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    Fantastic insight into an unimaginable life...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    This is such a strange book from a very strange country. This country seems to be in a 50 year time warp, with Lenin statues still standing. The Transnistria postage,passports and money are not accepted in any other country. This country is not even recognized by the UN or other countries.I wasn't familiar with Transnistria, had never even heard of it. So,I researched it on the Internet It is a country that broke off the Moldavia to the west and has on its east is the Ukraine. Here this country This is such a strange book from a very strange country. This country seems to be in a 50 year time warp, with Lenin statues still standing. The Transnistria postage,passports and money are not accepted in any other country. This country is not even recognized by the UN or other countries.I wasn't familiar with Transnistria, had never even heard of it. So,I researched it on the Internet It is a country that broke off the Moldavia to the west and has on its east is the Ukraine. Here this country is known, it is supposed to be the human trafficking it in the world, drug trafficking and is thought to be manufacturing dirty bombs. That is my short introduction to the country. What the author, Nicolai Lilin covers are what it was like growing up there and his events in his life. The author talks of a culture built around weapons. There are rituals built around the weapons. The author states that when he was a child, he did not want toys, he wanted weapons! There are 'sinful weapons' for criminal purposes and 'honest weapons' for hunting. He goes into great detail about the culture of the tattoos. I have to stop reading at times because of the tremendous amount of violence in this man's life. This book is so disturbing and life in Transnitisa is so brutal. I am not relating the worst of what is written in this book. There is a deep hatred of the police. In fact, this even enters the way that people relate to them. The differences between our society and their is overwhelming but I will leave that to you to find out the details. The writing is straight forward and I would even say blunt. The author explains the language, many words are code for other meanings. You cannot learn the languages spoken by the people in the country and have a real idea of the meaning. This book is very difficult to read because of its content. It is very gritty and so awful that you may not want to read much of it at a time. I have a weak stomach and this book really gets to it. I reccommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about the Transnistria culture and had a stronger stomach than I. This book was received from Library Thing and in no way influenced by review. My thoughts are my own.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ian Andrews

    My advice: don't waste your time or money. In the internet you can find some articles discussing this hoax: Michael Bobick's "Bending the Truth" (in English, very well documented), and Antonio Armano's "Lilin, la buffala che vene dal fredo" (in Italian). In fact, the only thing I've learned as a result of reading this book is that "buffala" is the Italian word for "hoax". I don't know what drove a credible journalist like Roberto Saviano to endorse this invention by Italian-based tattoo artist Ni My advice: don't waste your time or money. In the internet you can find some articles discussing this hoax: Michael Bobick's "Bending the Truth" (in English, very well documented), and Antonio Armano's "Lilin, la buffala che vene dal fredo" (in Italian). In fact, the only thing I've learned as a result of reading this book is that "buffala" is the Italian word for "hoax". I don't know what drove a credible journalist like Roberto Saviano to endorse this invention by Italian-based tattoo artist Nikolai Lilin, but I was personally very disappointed to realise as soon as the first chapter that this is not a credible source about the East European underworld. The book claims to be an exposé about the Urka, an ethnic group presumably known for its ferocity, independence from the Soviets, and devout religiosity, that was deported by Stalin to Transnistria in the 1930s. Herein lie the first fabrications. First, Transnistria did not become Soviet territory until WWII. Second, "urka" is a Russian term for "thug", "mobster", not a defined ethnic group. This is merely the beginning in a series of rather uninspired, pointless fabrications. I wouldn't mind if at least this was a good narrative, but it is hard for me to decide what is more irritating: the flat, wish-fulfilment, Mary-Sueesque characterisation of the narrator-hero, or an amateurish style that falls somewhere between the triviality of Dan Brown and the cheesiness of a teenager's first diary

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ger Byrne

    This is honestly one of the worst books I've ever read. It's ridiculously far fetched with most of the stories reading like complete fairy tales. It's seriously like something a 10 year old would write with all the stupid yarns of how him and 5 of his friends would kill about 400 rivals, who were all armed with machine guns while they only had some pebbles ( I exaggerate but you get the point). The amount of supposedly retarded or brain damaged people in the book is remarkable and his friend Mel This is honestly one of the worst books I've ever read. It's ridiculously far fetched with most of the stories reading like complete fairy tales. It's seriously like something a 10 year old would write with all the stupid yarns of how him and 5 of his friends would kill about 400 rivals, who were all armed with machine guns while they only had some pebbles ( I exaggerate but you get the point). The amount of supposedly retarded or brain damaged people in the book is remarkable and his friend Mel, although I think intended to be likeable, is a ridiculous caricature. The Author claims to hate the Georgians because of their lack of respect for handicapped people and yet he constantly spouts about how his people hate homosexuals and blacks? Weird. All in all, I hated this book. It's the most far fetched, ridiculous nonsense of a book that claims to be a true story. The fact the author feels the need to write a disclaimer saying some of the stories may not be based on fact says it all. I would say 95% of the book is outlandish, macho bullshit. I will certainly be avoiding Freefall, the follow up to this nonsense. Avoid.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Konstantin

    Absolutley great story about what happened with young people in Russia, with those, who was born at the end of USSR, whom childhood was at bloody 90s. I understand, why this book everywhere in the world described as one of the best russian books. It shows everything how it was in real. And the same way I understand why this book will never be translated to russian language. I strongly recommend this book to everyone, who want how it was to raise in Russia and ex-USSR at 90's, our youth-culture a Absolutley great story about what happened with young people in Russia, with those, who was born at the end of USSR, whom childhood was at bloody 90s. I understand, why this book everywhere in the world described as one of the best russian books. It shows everything how it was in real. And the same way I understand why this book will never be translated to russian language. I strongly recommend this book to everyone, who want how it was to raise in Russia and ex-USSR at 90's, our youth-culture and laws. Because 80% of that story, I think, was experienced by every russian who was born between 1980 and 1994.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Crt

    I wasn’t sure what to think as I was reading this, as parts were quite harrowing, especially the description of the juvenile prison. But overall quite an interesting book, especially the nuanced comments about the tyranny of the soviet regime. The narrative describes the author’s childhood really, as growing up as part of a wider family of Siberian criminals, who have their own sense of honour, justice and morality. In many ways they were God fearing people who looked after their own and the down I wasn’t sure what to think as I was reading this, as parts were quite harrowing, especially the description of the juvenile prison. But overall quite an interesting book, especially the nuanced comments about the tyranny of the soviet regime. The narrative describes the author’s childhood really, as growing up as part of a wider family of Siberian criminals, who have their own sense of honour, justice and morality. In many ways they were God fearing people who looked after their own and the downtrodden, but woe to any who seek to attack them. The brutality and violence is quite something. The author also relates many stories from other criminals that occurred in the past, some around the time of the gulags . Memorable quote: “ the Ukrainians drank a lot, a habit they shared with the rest of the Soviet population, certainly, but they did so in a particularly unrestrained manner ...”

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bogdan

    A novel/fictionalized memoir with a lot of blood and cruelty for which you need to be prepared somehow. Editor's blurb was helpful to some extent. The story itself is very loose and hardly makes out a narrative line across the entire book, but what I liked most is the melancholy which you feel in author's voice when remembering the past days of childhood and teen ages which will never return, both because that age is now past behind him and also because the world in which he has been raised has b A novel/fictionalized memoir with a lot of blood and cruelty for which you need to be prepared somehow. Editor's blurb was helpful to some extent. The story itself is very loose and hardly makes out a narrative line across the entire book, but what I liked most is the melancholy which you feel in author's voice when remembering the past days of childhood and teen ages which will never return, both because that age is now past behind him and also because the world in which he has been raised has been changed dramatically and irremediably.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ezra

    The tattoo chapter of this book will make you want to turn your own body into a diary and a canvas to penetrate your own "suffering" right into your skin. However, I gave it 3 out of 5, because I want to take off the fictional elements and get the brutal, raw reality of that underworld criminal community from the soviet union.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Harry Junior

    A hell of a mess to read. I can only imagine what the original manuscript was like. Not a singular linear story, but a collection of memories and stories that carry no sense of chronology. But damn, many of them are engrossing. The orthodoxy, the lore, the glimpses into a world far removed from my own. You just have to get past being able to piece them all together into a cohesive whole.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Giuseppe Turco

    I enjoyed the story and the description of the Siberian criminality in it; I didn't even know its existence before reading this book. I had watched the related movie some time before and, although I consider it worth watching, i prefer the book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Josipa Cvelić

    Fascinating and easy to read. A challenging read from the moral aspect.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alex Dabi Zhevi

    It was hard to distinguish between 'reality' and complete 'bullshit' – but I think the best parts were in describing the multi-ethnic state that was the Soviet Union/USSR. Really complicated.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Esmay Bakker

    Nice story, but not written in a way I could finish the book. Read the half.. Then I quit. Love the idea of the community though.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cosmin Nicolae

    Savages, pure and antouched by the civilization. I come from Romania, near to Ucraina, Moldova and Russia. Is like a deja vu from what my grandfather used to tell me about the comunist era.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Janneke

    This was quite fascinating.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Federicobeach

    I was told by a moldavian guy that there are a lot of lies in this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Peter Ruman

    starts interesting, then turns from boring to horrible to boring again and always fails to make a straight point.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bjorn

    "To live outside the law you must be honest," Bob Dylan sang once, and few books I've read stick as closely to that as Siberian Education, the story of Nicolai Lilin's youth in the contested republic of Transnistria (Moldova/Russia). According to Lilin, this is where Stalin sent more or less the entire Siberian mob back in the day, and they've all settled there and carried on their business. We get to follow the young Nicolai from childhood - starting with the first time he sees the police come "To live outside the law you must be honest," Bob Dylan sang once, and few books I've read stick as closely to that as Siberian Education, the story of Nicolai Lilin's youth in the contested republic of Transnistria (Moldova/Russia). According to Lilin, this is where Stalin sent more or less the entire Siberian mob back in the day, and they've all settled there and carried on their business. We get to follow the young Nicolai from childhood - starting with the first time he sees the police come into their home to arrest his grandfather, only to get sent packing outgunned, humiliated and ridiculed - until he turns 18, by which time he's been to juvenile prison twice, seen a lot of violence (really, a LOT) and taken active part in much of it himself. The word "honesty" is indeed used a lot here, and almost exclusively by and about people who live outside the law. This is a society which has evolved under pressure from the outside, and survived through both political purges, the rise and fall of empires, a state that actively wants to get rid of them, and obviously the fact that they all get sent to jail or get killed regularly. In return, they've become a tight-knit community with very strict rules, where family and faith are sacred, where the young and strong look out for the weak and old, where everyone works together for the common good, and all that jazz. This isn't just organized crime, it's a society organized around crime. Very well organized. And I say that not to hold it up as an ideal or anything, but because of this odd effect: as Lilin gets deeper into how this society works, all the unspoken rules, all the moral imperatives, all the hidden-to-outsiders meanings, all the things that we take for granted about how the world works without necessarily questioning them suddenly become the text. It becomes more than just a book about how a group of people live (and kill, and die), but also why, how a lot of things that people both here and there take for granted are actually that way for a reason - not quite a philosophical treatise on the construction of society, ethics and moral relativism, but, y'know. Quite fascinating at times. That's the good. The bad? Well for starters, as always with these sorts of books, you have to decide how to approach it. After all, this is an author who has no issues with telling us in detail how he's hurt others and seen people get hurt. Sure, almost every act of violence described in the book is committed either against police (who are pretty much seen as non-human) or against other criminals (often children, but criminals all the same), but ultimately I assume all these criminals have to rob someone, and while Lilin's silence about that works well as part of setting up how their world works (do you think of Chinese child labour every time you put on a pair of sneakers?), it doesn't make the book any less disturbing. You can take issue with this, or you can read it as a pure objective reportage: "Here's what happens, the naked truth, from the point of view of someone who was there. Questions?" (And then get out your Black Books DVDs and watch the episode where they try to hold a reading for an autobiography by a former gangster.) But there's still a certain feel of wanting to have the cake and beat it too - to entertain and shock with details about the criminal life, while still mostly letting us keep our safe distance from it. And to be honest (sorry), the descriptions of slashed tendons, busted heads and prison rapes soon lose their shock value and become just really repetitive. Part of that is because of the text itself. Somewhere in Italy, an editor hasn't done his job. Not only is Lilin's prose amateurish to say the least, but the pacing is way off. Lilin tells his story in a series of episodes, each of which keeps getting interrupted so he can explain the meaning of every minute detail, give backstories of every character, and relate anecdotes from years earlier. A good writer might have pulled it off - especially the last 100 pages, before the book ends rather abruptly, read like an attempt to imitate the last 20-30 minutes of Goodfellas - but here, it just feels like he's constantly losing track. At the end, we're left with a book that fulfills its blurb of being "a snapshot of a violent world," as such it has its merits and if you're into that sort of thing by all means give it a go; but it could have used autofocus, a wide-angle lens, and some retouching.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.