Grove Press 2000. ISBN 0-8021-3652-4

The eXile is an English language fortnightly magazine published in Moscow and edited by two Americans, Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi. This is their first book talking about themselves, their magazine and life in Moscow.

The first point to make is that Ames has a large ego. As he says about Berkeley in the late Reagan years; "Everything seemed possible then....... Anyway, something Really Big, with us at the center of it all." When nothing happened he decided that he was in the wrong place, finally finding his inspiration in Leningrad after the failed August 1991 coup.

Particularly he wanted to live life to the full and in the raw, and in Moscow he tries out the Nietzschean Overman model with some success. He leaves bloody needles all over a friends apartment after 3 weeks on heroin, fucks beautiful teenagers and gets 5 marriage proposals, 1 from a virgin. He crashes through large scale, fear, cowardice and revenge.

He admits that he can only get what he wants in anarchic situations and bemoans the lack of excess in the 1999, post economic collapse Russia. As he says, "....Moscow isn't the same place anymore. We like to talk a lot about the "mojo" being gone....."

Taibbi seems to run along similar lines but comes across as more nerdy and more of a journalist.

While Ames became known through an article published in the Moscow Times ("The Rise and Fall of Moscow's Expat Royalty") it was Taibbi that provided the weight and credibility when he defected from the same paper. As Ames says with regard to (top)

his jealousy of Taibbi, ".. The eXile's popularity really began to take off, and since I was strapped in for the ride, I had to be grateful to Taibbi for that."

In the mid1990's Russia was out of control and Taibbi writes about the power grab that created a new elite of tycoons such as Berezovsky, Potanin and Gusinsky. He writes at some length about the central role played by Anatoly Chubais. The Western press based in Moscow continued to present him as a hero of reform long after the facts pointed the other way. The "auctions" that he organized in 1995 for example handed over 38% of Norilsk nickel to Oneeximbank for $171 million, a fraction of its real value, and paid for it with the governments own money that the bank was holding to pay state employees salaries.

The considerable expatriate community is another target. Taibbi and Ames are very much against the American Way (that's why they came to Russia) and they let it show. The ex pats are probably correctly portrayed as trying hard to insulate themselves from their surroundings in western style apartments, shops, clubs and bars,collecting large salaries,not speaking Russian, complaining about the locals and handing out useless and unwanted advice. Most World Bank loans to Russia went straight back to their consultancies.

eXile journalism seems to cause as much irritation as its "Death Porn" section and pornographic club guide but it did report on the bizzare world of Moscow in the mid 1990s.

Ames and Taibbi themselves appear as unpleasant people but honest reporters.

{Return to my Home Page and latest recommended book}{Return to other recommended books}