‘Summer in Samarkand’ by Elif Batuman

A student of Russian literature intends to go to Moscow in her sophomore year to improve her Russian, yet a chain of unlikely events takes her on an eventful journey that starts in Turkey. From Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book to Alexander Pushkin’s travelogue A Journey to Arzrum, the story – a travelogue itself – cleverly weaves together references to Russian and Turkish literature, funny personal anecdotes and cultural idiosyncrasies of cities the narrator visits in Turkey before ending up in Samarkand. Batuman’s relentless energy as she incorporates the personal with the literary is highly impressive.

First published in The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. Available to read online here