There are in the eastern Russia zone damn traveled by a battered highway of 2.025 kilometers, built over thousands of corpses of prisoners of the gulag and known for this as the Road of Bones. Kolimá is your name and from 1932 to 1956, he was awarded more than two million political prisoners and common fed with their work and their lives, a criminal structure 160 labor camps and extermination. “It is the worst nightmare of the TWENTIETH century, the island most terrible of the Gulag Archipelago (…) the crematorium white, hell arctic, a field of concentration cream, without ovens, a mincer human on a universal scale,” says the Polish journalist Jacek Hugo-Bader on Daily Kolimá (The Box Books, a translation of mr. Ernesto Rubio and Agata Orzeszek), story of his mind-blowing journey in hitchhiking by the land with which he won the English Pen Award in 2013.


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The route has its starting point in Magadan, sea of Ojotsk, the beginning of everything, as in the Gulag Archipelago of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the moral guide of the Hugo-Bader, along with the poet Varlam Shalámov, survivors both, and whose steps pursued in this artifact, literary, travel book, and a testimony to the time of what is left after the horror. “Kolimá, such as Auschwitz are sites with a great symbolic strength that I feel very drawn to,” says by e-mail to THE COUNTRY Hugo-Bader.

Guided by its credo —”work, sport, traveling, empinar el codo, make love”— and with a psychological mechanism to keep the hopelessness at bay, Hugo-Bader is in his journey with the victims of the camps, people like Maria, with the life destroyed by arriving an hour late to work, steal a bottle of milk or make a joke against the Party, all of these activities antirrevolucionarias framed in the article 58 of the soviet code. In the gulag they suffer the violence of the common criminals, the cold, the hunger, gang rapes and all kinds of atrocities. But many survive and what counted here, although that is not normal. “The russians have what they call the syndrome of silence. Do not speak of the atrocities that occurred in their territory and aim to make as if it hadn’t happened ever,” sums up the reporter Polish.

however, this is not a book about the camps, or not only. Hugo Bader is with the aristocracy of crime, with gold seekers that seem to be straight out of the wéstern more extreme, with children, bandits, entrepreneurs riding farms in the middle of nowhere, or people, as Madame Marianne, who has returned to Kolimá from Paris, fleeing from everything because “there’s a spirit without beauty, and in France there is beauty without spirit”.

The journalist Jacek Hugo Bader . Mateusz Skwarczek / Agencja Gazeta

For the story passing characters as Basania, the millionaire, the empty eyes, agent of espionage for Russian that everything pollutes, and is a veteran of Afghanistan, crazy dangerous and almost endearing, owner of the gold mines of Kolimá, a true natural treasure exploited before by the mafia, the State, and now by the mafia to dry.

There is a lot of alcohol, whole lives flooded in vodka, incredible scenes of games of cards among mobsters, a surgeon that operates on the phone while drinking… half way Bader, who also knows great people that will help to not die frozen in the middle of the road, with Vladimir, a guy who when you close your eyes you see the mountains of corpses intact, perfectly preserved in permafrost, that he pulled out of the ground with the blade of his bulldozer during a survey in search of gold.

the book, The more in the wake of the Nobel Svetlana Alexiévich that of Ryszard Kapuscinski, is a fundamental tool, the humor, and tone, almost optimistic, which make it different. “You have to be able to shut down your bad thoughts, even a reporter. If not, you’ll be devoured by the depression, and you won’t live long,” confesses the author. “When I’m in Russia, I drink a lot of vodka. In addition, each time that I travel —even to the most dark as Kolimá— I focus obsessively on the good side,” he adds.

that is why, perhaps, do not let another character, the protector of the literary legacy of Shalámov, closing the book with a dreadful story about how you lost your cards destroyed by criminals before they had masturbated together, excited by their content. Prefer to finish with a plea on the regret that it had not known better to the people who have led the way. “They carry so much decency, so much goodness, so much authenticity…”, virtues that even the greatest massacre of history has managed to erase.


“Perhaps the first reason that we approached the book, it was a leap, and know what happened with Kolimá after the atrocities of the gulag,” says editor Paco Cerdà, when asked why this book and the reasons why they choose to break with the strategy of publication that gives the name of the editorial: boxes of three books short on a topic and combining essay, fiction and chronic).

This Daily Kolimá anger aside, in a collection called Box High. “The memory will be an important focus of this collection,” says Cerda. “So we started a month ago with Stop telling lies, an exciting book by the French Philippe Besson about his discovery of sexuality and now we continue with Daily Kolimá. Individual memory, collective memory”, explains Cerdà.