Dale Pesmen is the author of Russia and Soul: an Exploration (Cornell University Press 2000), based on her experiences during her residence as an anthropologist and interpreter in a formerly closed Siberian military-industrial city during the early 1990s. Ms. Pesmen received her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Chicago and has taught in the U.S. and Europe. She is a visual artist.
Russia and Soul appeals to a wide range of readers with varying interests. It combines vivid literary descriptions of everyday Siberian Russian life during the early 1990s with quotes from the author's interviews with people living through that tremendously difficult time, with jokes, stories, and discussions of Russian culture, history, philosophy, and language.
Carlin Romano writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Russia and Soul . . . (is) certainly the best and most intricate book ever written about how crucial, barely definable words in the Russian language . . . combine to shape the Russian character. Most Anglo-American books about Russia . . . offer a conceptually banal take on Moscow or St. Petersburg, dressed in Western assumptions and categories, in which the foreign author grinds exotic Russian ethos into familiar sausage. Not Russia and Soul. Having spent part of the early 1990s in decidedly non-chic Omsk (a Siberian city once closed to foreigners because of its military bases), Pesmen discards the usual Gorbachev Yeltsin-and-friends approach for the emblematic words of ordinary informants: morose Mira, assertive Aleksandr, and other figures we get to know. Result? A flood of insights into how Russians see themselves . . . As Pesmen unpacks her rich material with marvelous learning and verve, the indomitable spirituality of the Russian personality after 70 years of Soviet misery and 10 of capitalist corruption emerges.
Professor Victor A. Friedman of the University of Chicago writes that :
"This is the best book about Russia ever written . . . Pesmen has captured what it is like to be Russian and to live in Russia . . . Her book is so readable that when I open it at any page I have difficulty putting it down."
Nancy Ries of Colgate University writes:
"Dazzlingly original and penetratingly insightful, this is a volume of singular erudition, bound to be a touchstone for all future studies of Russian culture, society, philosophy, and literature. Dale Pesmen has peered into the seeming cliche of Russian soul to reveal an intricate cosmology, one that profoundly shapes social behavior and self creation."
Click here for more information about Russia and Soul: An Exploration on the Cornell University Press Website.