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A Journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway: The Siberian Text in Italian Travel Books. P. 82–91

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Section: Philology




Adalgisa Mingati
University of Trento; Università degli Studi di Trento, Dipartimento di Lettere e Filosofia, Via Tommaso Gar 14, 38122, Trento, Italy;


In this article, a corpus of nine travel books is examined. These books were written by writers, journalists or ordinary Italian travellers who had taken a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway between the late 1970s and early 2010s. The analysis, taking into account the main stylistic and compositional parameters pertaining to the travelogue genre, shows that the image of Siberia reflected in these books is greatly influenced by the so-called Siberian mythologeme (V.I. Tyupa), i.e. by all those cultural archetypes and portrayals that were shaped and developed in Russian culture and literature down through the centuries. In addition to frequent references to the works of such Siberian text writers as Dostoevsky, Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, Shalamov and others, the paper highlights a number of concepts and expressions, and even prejudices and clichés, connected with the perception of Siberian space. In this article, the concept of the Siberian text is applied to Italian literature and culture. Indeed, an important part in developing the ideas about the Siberian region in Italian culture was played by popular science newspapers and magazines of the late19th and early 20th centuries covering geographical expeditions and journeys to distant lands. Another important source is adventure fiction of the same period: the Siberian Steppe and the variegated landscape of Russia provided an exotic setting for several novels and short stories published in the early 1900s by Emilio Salgari, the most popular and prolific Italian writer in this genre. Lastly, the Siberian text of Italian literature is imbued with the myth of building the Trans-Siberian Railway, which inspired C. Sgorlon to write his novel Anataj’s Shell (La conchiglia di Anataj), based on a true story of the workers from Friuli who had built the Trans-Baikal stretch of this railway.


Italian travelogue, Siberian text of Russian literature, myth about the Trans-Siberian Railway
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