I had this book for ages, persuaded by an industrious book seller once to purchase it, yet I lacked the impetus to get to it.
Admittedly the cover does not convey much fun. I took it on holiday with me – half thinking that I may leave it abroad if it turned out to be dry,
I’m glad to say I brought it back with me, having thoroughly enjoyed it. I do like good travel writing with a personal touch and some lovely insights and The Armenian Sketchbook is a prime example for one of those.
In 1962 Vasily Grossman spent two months in Armenia, translating a novel into Russian. He warmly portrays the country, tells of his small adventures and manages to keep your interest without sensational revelations or dramas.
A writer at odds with the communist regime, having turned into an introspect and dealing with the effects of ageing, the sketchbook tells us a lot about himself as a person – and does so almost unfiltered and honestly.
The sketchbook is not edited for publication, polished to create an image, nor meant to present a story that sells. This has touches of a diary not meant to be seen by anyone else.
Having admired his journalistic talent and objective reporting as seen in his other work, I found it quite amazing to finally see behind the facade and get a glimpse of the person behind the writer.
Unbeknown to him he was already suffering from cancer and the unknowing references to the physical symptoms that soon after led to his demise contribute to the impact the novel had on me.