Different people use different words to convey the essence of the Russian steam bath. It is communion. It is an entire philosophy. It is holy. It is everything. It is life. Over the course of more than a decade living and reporting in Russia, I found that the banya is, in fact, all those things: There is nothing more Russian than the banya.
In a work of memoir and journalism that reads more like a novel, I bring close a people, and a centuries-old institution, that will surprise and fascinate even those who know little about the country, and less about its cult of steam.
Each chapter of the book is an episode – spanning from several hours to several days – from travel in the Far North (Arkhangelsk and the Solovetsky Islands), Moscow, the Ural Mountains (Magnitogorsk and Bashkortostan), and a southern stretch of the Volga River in Chuvashiya.
The banya was my favorite thing about living in Russia. I sought out the best steam just about everywhere I traveled while reporting extensively from the former Soviet Union for The Chronicle of Higher Education, the U.S. weekly newspaper, as well as a host of other publications, including: Nature, Science, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Rolling Stone and The Moscow Times.
This book is my first. It is the only book devoted to Russia, and the banya, in English.
I currently am looking for a publisher.