A French journalist’s eloquently philosophical diary of the six months he spent fulfilling his dream to “live as a hermit deep in the woods” of Siberia.
Fed up with the complications of the big city, Tesson moved to a former geologist’s hut on the shores of Lake Baikal in the dead of winter. His nearest neighbors were hours away from him, but this only made the location even more ideal. Tesson brought along more than 70 books and ample supplies of cigars and vodka to help him “tame” what had become his enemy: time. Like the people he had left behind in Paris, he had become a slave to doing. Just being in the world and partaking of its simple pleasures—such as observing nature and the passing of the seasons—had gone by the wayside. Alone in the Siberian wilderness, Tesson “reconnect[ed] with the truth of moonlit nights [and] submit[ted] to the doctrine of the forests.” He fished, drank, meditated, wept, dreamed, hiked and chopped wood, reveling in the almost heretical simplicity of his life. The few hardy men and women he met helped him appreciate the joys, and pains, of human communion. The forbidding but beautiful taiga helped Tesson realize that everything, including the snow and ice that covered it, was as gloriously “alive” as he was. The deeper he probed his own mind and heart, the more aware he became of himself as just another animal, like the wolves and bears with whom he shared the landscape. Comparisons to Walden are inevitable and, to an extent, justified. Yet what makes Tesson’s work so refreshing is its freedom from Thoreau-vian moralizing. Solitude may be necessary and healing; but living life as a fully realized human being with attachments to society is an art rather than a thing to be despised.
Moving, wise and profound.