The Paris Review

The Ideal Place to Disappear: An Interview with Julia Phillips

The Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia is a sparsely populated landmass that sits atop the Pacific Ring of Fire. Forty percent of the land is covered by volcanoes, twenty-nine of which are active. There are earthquakes, hot springs, extreme weather, brown bears, rivers turned blood red from spawning salmon, and vast frozen expanses. Not many people live there, though more do now than did during the Soviet era—Kamchatka was a closed military zone until 1989. There are no roads connecting it to mainland Russia and much of the territory is accessible only by helicopter (or dogsled).

Julia Phillips is the author of , a crime novel set in this remote peninsula of the Russian Far East, “” from her hometown of Montclair, New Jersey. Phillips, who studied Russian literature in college, went to Kamchatka on a Fulbright in 2011. While there, she spent a month traveling across Russia’s easternmost tundra with the organizers of the Beringia, a 685-mile dogsled race. More recently, Phillips contributed to BuzzFeed about the challenges facing Kamchatka’s nomadic reindeer herders. In all her writing about Kamchatka, Phillips seems most fascinated by the creative potential of emptiness, identifying in the horizonless tundra feelings of awe and dread in

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