Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia

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Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia Book Cover Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia
Peter Pomerantsev
General History

As noted by other reviewers, the author is a very good story-teller and has included many entertaining and--to some extent--informative vignettes in this book.

I have lived in Moscow for many years and have been to many of the places mentioned in the book--unlike some other works I've read about Moscow, this author's descriptions and insights about places and events generally ring true. Moreover, he describes many interesting incidents/personalities that I was not previously aware of, so reading this book was certainly worthwhile for me. As a journalist, the author seems to have had a very good perch from which to observe a rapidly and constantly evolving Moscow.

Some other reviewers have criticized the book for not enabling them to "understand" Russia any better. Don't expect to read this--or any other--book and come away with an "understanding" of Russia, but at least it might help readers appreciate why Russia is such a difficult place to understand.

I enjoyed the book, so why not five stars? I had three basic concerns about the book:

1) Russia, and Moscow in particular, evolves rapidly and is changing constantly. Therefore, many of the author's observations seem a bit dated at this point. The author generally doesn't provide much of a timeline in the book, so it is often hard to determine whether he is writing about 2002 or 2012. Moscow in 2014 is a very different place from Moscow 2002 or Moscow 2012;

2) While many of the author's stories are very entertaining, the result is sort of a grotesque caricature of Moscow, which in fact is a huge and heterogeneous city, with millions of absolutely ordinary people very different from those described in this book. The author provides a good description of an interesting but freakish "froth" of people that provide good copy, but creates an impression that they, rather than ordinary citizens, define the city (which, admittedly, they do to some extent...). Therefore, as you read this book, bear in mind that millions of people are taking the subway/bus to work every day as book keepers, lawyers, account managers, etc., pretty much like everywhere else in the world...

3) In a few instances, the author seems to overdramatize things a bit. For example, he goes on and on about the constant fear of having your "documents checked", etc. In fact, I don't think I've had my "documents checked" even once in the last several years, and it is certainly not something I'm worried about (this kind of thing was indeed more common several years ago, hence my comment about some observations being somewhat dated...).

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