The consolations of the forest Alone in a cabin on the Siberian Taiga

Sylvain Tesson, 1972-

Book - 2013

"A meditation on escaping the chaos of modern life and rediscovering the luxury of solitude. Winner of the Prix Médicis for nonfiction, The Consolations of the Forest is a Thoreau-esque quest to find solace, taken to the extreme. No stranger to inhospitable places, Sylvain Tesson exiles himself to a wooden cabin on Siberia's Lake Baikal, a full day's hike from any 'neighbor,' with his thoughts, his books, a couple of dogs, and many bottles of vodka for company. Writing ...from February to July, he shares his deep appreciation for the harsh but beautiful land, the resilient men and women who populate it, and the bizarre and tragic history that has given Siberia an almost mythological place in the imagination. Rich with observation, introspection, and the good humor necessary to laugh at his own folly, Tesson's memoir is about the ultimate freedom of owning your own time. Only in the hands of a gifted storyteller can an experiment in isolation become an exceptional adventure accessible to all. By recording his impressions in the face of silence, his struggles in a hostile environment, his hopes, doubts, and moments of pure joy in communion with nature, Tesson makes a decidedly out-of-the-ordinary experience relatable. The awe and joy are contagious, and one comes away with the comforting knowledge that "as long as there is a cabin deep in the woods, nothing is completely lost" -- from publisher's web page.

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  • A sidestep
  • February: the forest
  • March: time
  • April: the lake
  • May: the animals
  • June: tears
  • July: peace
  • Translator's notes.
Review by Library Journal Reviews

French writer and Prix Médicis winner Tesson fulfilled an early promise to himself to live alone in the woods by spending six months in a tiny cabin on Lake Baikal in Siberia. Driving over a lake covered by a nearly four-foot-thick sheet of ice to reach his cabin, Tesson leaves behind not only his life in France but also the supermarkets of Irkutsk (one of the largest cities in Siberia) and even the lonely ranger stations along the lake and forest. He brings with him about six dozen books, his mountaineering supplies, canned food, and plenty of Tabasco sauce and vodka. Tesson's aim is to find solitude and discover his inner life. This journal explores his adaptation to life in a very small cabin in a large, white, cold world, where the weather, the sound of creaking ice, and the wildlife are the primary sources of fascination and contemplation. Like Thoreau, he has visitors and must leave to restock but also finds pleasure and renewal in solitude and nature. VERDICT In this appealing account of his Siberian exile, Tesson brings readers alongside him as he explores both inner and outer worlds in a harsh but beautiful environment.—Melissa Stearns, Franklin Pierce Univ. Lib., Rindge, NH [Page 130]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"A meditation on escaping the chaos of modern life and rediscovering the luxury of solitude. Winner of the Prix Mâedicis for nonfiction, The Consolations of the Forest is a Thoreau-esque quest to find solace, taken to the extreme. No stranger to inhospitable places, Sylvain Tesson exiles himself to a wooden cabin on Siberia's Lake Baikal, a full day's hike from any 'neighbor,' with his thoughts, his books, a couple of dogs, and many bottles of vodka for company. Writing from February to July, he shares his deep appreciation for the harsh but beautiful land, the resilient men and women who populate it, and the bizarre and tragic history that has given Siberia an almost mythological place in the imagination. Rich with observation, introspection, and the good humor necessary to laugh at his own folly, Tesson's memoir is about the ultimate freedom of owning your own time. Only in the hands of a gifted storyteller can an experiment in isolation become an exceptional adventure accessible to all. By recording his impressions in the face of silence, his struggles in a hostile environment, his hopes, doubts, and moments of pure joy in communion with nature, Tesson makes a decidedly out-of-the-ordinary experience relatable. The awe and joy are contagious, and one comes away with the comforting knowledge that "as long as there is a cabin deep in the woods, nothing is completely lost" -- from publisher's web page.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A meditation on escaping the chaos of modern life describes the author's self-exile in a wooden cabin on Siberia's Lake Baikal, where he wrote about the region's harsh beauty, resilient populations, and tragic history.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

An award-winning meditation on escaping the chaos of modern life and rediscovering the luxury of solitude describes the author's self-exile with his books, his dogs and his vodka in a wooden cabin on Siberia's Lake Baikal, where for months he wrote about the region's harsh beauty, its resilient populations and its tragic history.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

A meditation on escaping the chaos of modern life and rediscovering the luxury of solitude. Winner of the Prix Médicis for nonfiction, The Consolations of the Forest is a Thoreau-esque quest to find solace, taken to the extreme. No stranger to inhospitable places, Sylvain Tesson exiles himself to a wooden cabin on Siberia’s Lake Baikal, a full day’s hike from any "neighbor," with his thoughts, his books, a couple of dogs, and many bottles of vodka for company. Writing from February to July, he shares his deep appreciation for the harsh but beautiful land, the resilient men and women who populate it, and the bizarre and tragic history that has given Siberia an almost mythological place in the imagination. Rich with observation, introspection, and the good humor necessary to laugh at his own folly, Tesson’s memoir is about the ultimate freedom of owning your own time. Only in the hands of a gifted storyteller can an experiment in isolation become an exceptional adventure accessible to all. By recording his impressions in the face of silence, his struggles in a hostile environment, his hopes, doubts, and moments of pure joy in communion with nature, Tesson makes a decidedly out-of-the-ordinary experience relatable. The awe and joy are contagious, and one comes away with the comforting knowledge that "as long as there is a cabin deep in the woods, nothing is completely lost."

Review by Publisher Summary 5

A meditation on escaping the chaos of modern life and rediscovering the luxury of solitude. Winner of the Prix Médicis for nonfiction, The Consolations of the Forest is a Thoreau-esque quest to find solace, taken to the extreme. No stranger to inhospitable places, Sylvain Tesson exiles himself to a wooden cabin on Siberia's Lake Baikal, a full day's hike from any "neighbor," with his thoughts, his books, a couple of dogs, and many bottles of vodka for company. Writing from February to July, he shares his deep appreciation for the harsh but beautiful land, the resilient men and women who populate it, and the bizarre and tragic history that has given Siberia an almost mythological place in the imagination. Rich with observation, introspection, and the good humor necessary to laugh at his own folly, Tesson's memoir is about the ultimate freedom of owning your own time. Only in the hands of a gifted storyteller can an experiment in isolation become an exceptional adventure accessible to all. By recording his impressions in the face of silence, his struggles in a hostile environment, his hopes, doubts, and moments of pure joy in communion with nature, Tesson makes a decidedly out-of-the-ordinary experience relatable. The awe and joy are contagious, and one comes away with the comforting knowledge that "as long as there is a cabin deep in the woods, nothing is completely lost."