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The Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a…

The Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga (original 2011; edition 2013)

by Sylvain Tesson, Linda Coverdale (Translator)

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2511768,251 (3.54)16
Title:The Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga
Authors:Sylvain Tesson
Other authors:Linda Coverdale (Translator)
Info:Rizzoli Ex Libris (2013), Hardcover, 244 pages
Collections:Your library

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The consolations of the forest : alone in a cabin on the Siberian taiga by Sylvain Tesson (2011)


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English (6)  French (4)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (3)  Catalan (1)  All languages (17)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
I'm going to be honest - I did not finish this book, so I am only reviewing the portion that I read (slightly less than half of the book).

Sylvian Tesson is completely insufferable, at least in this memoir. Have you ever met someone who is so full of him-or-herself that it is physically painful to be around that person, someone who talks about how great he/she is and, not so subtly, paints everyone who isn't at his/her level as inferior? Yes? Then don't bother reading this book, because Tesson is one of the worst cases of this I have ever read.

Most of the book that I read (like I said, I didn't read all of it - there was no way in hell I could force myself to do so) was pretty much Tesson patting himself on the back for being so worldly and well-read. He comes across as being incredibly proud that he drinks a great quantity of vodka (so the fuck what?) and no other liquor apparently is good enough to touch his lips. And his reading list - good god! He is spending six months in Siberia - I expect a book with self-inflection and treatises on nature and government and politics and communities in the wild (whether plant or animal). I suppose I was expecting another Thoreau (and Tesson actually throws a dig at Thoreau in the beginning of the book - you, sir, are NO Thoreau and you are in NO WAY close to his caliber).

Instead, I got Tesson talking about what he reads "for pleasure" and then the footnotes explain the general gist of said books, because obviously us lowly peons reading this masterpiece are too stupid to have read the books ourselves.

There is extremely little self-inflection to be found in these pages - instead, Tesson has a superior, self-congratulating air throughout. I wonder if he is even capable of self-inflection. Maybe he got over himself in the second half of the book and actually started talking about other things, but I seriously have doubts - and, honestly, I don't care. The first half of the book was so incredibly off-putting that I wouldn't finish this book if it was the last book available after a book apocalypse.

I suppose I could give Tesson a bit of the benefit of the doubt, as I read the English translation. Perhaps something got lost in translation or a tone was inserted into the memoir that wasn't there in the original? I also doubt those things.

The book is titled The Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga. It would be better titled something along the lines of I Am Superior to You: Let Me Tell You How Repeatedly as I Sip Vodka in a Cabin in Siberia as I Ignore the Nature Around Me. ( )
2 vote schatzi | Nov 12, 2016 |
With the aid of a dictionary my basic/intermediate level French allowed me to read this record of French journalist Sylvain (what an appropriate name) Tesson's 6 month stay in a remote log cabin on the shore of Lake Baikal in Siberia. An avid traveller he decided to stay in one place in his own company to gain the experience of stasis and loneliness. He undertook the exercise with good grace and a positive outlook and reaped the rewards of seeking a new experience. We might have some doubts of his version of a hermit's life including regular visits to chat and drink with neighbours and hosting friends who visit but he didn't flinch and always went back serenely to his own company.

Certainly a useful way of improving my French vocabulary of the countryside and its features. ( )
  Steve38 | May 2, 2014 |
Tesson is a French travel writer (altho much more than that) and this is the first one of his works to be translated into English. I hope the rest of them will be soon as I would enjoy reading more. Tesson writes about spending six months alone in a cabin in Siberia (although he does occasionally have visitors). I have read quite a few of this type of book - solitude in nature - and this is one of my favorites. Many of them are about spiritual journeys or nature or animals. This one is very well balanced with all of the above included, with a small amount of political commentary thrown in regarding the meaning and experience of total freedom. There are also some interesting thoughts about Russian "types" based on geography. The writing was lovely and beautifully descriptive without being overdone. I enjoyed being in this location with this author and read this one more slowly than usual. It left me wanting more from Tesson. Five star read for me.
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2 vote mkboylan | Feb 28, 2014 |
Although nice reading, not so profound or philosophical as it was announced. Rather just a dairy with some thoughts; mostly about the freedom of the ermits (standing outside the society). Quite some repetition. The descriptions of the nature could have been more evocative (like paintings). ( )
1 vote albertkep | Jan 5, 2014 |
In the midst of a harried and chaotic life, I can only dream of quiet space alone, away from people, completely sunk in nature, with nothing but time unspooling before me. What bliss this seems to me! Sylvain Tesson found just exactly this, choosing his own hermitage, for six months and recorded his observations and thoughts in the journal that became this book, aptly subtitled Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga.

Tesson had promised himself that before he turned forty, he would live as a hermit. Having visited the remote Lake Baikal on the Siberian taiga before, it was the perfect place for him to pursue this goal of living silently, intentionally, and simply, far from other men. In February, armed with provisions to get him through the long cold and the brief blossoming of spring, Tesson arrived at his remote cabin. He took just the basics, books, vodka, and cigars as he embarked on his journey. He records his days in a journal, spending much of his time hiking, doing chores around the cabin, fishing to supplement his supplies, and reading. His spare existence in his simple cabin is actually a luxurious examination into his own soul, an homage to the magnitude and magnificence of nature, and a chance to muse philosophically untarnished by the needs, wants, and demands of others. Tesson writes beautifully, recording exquisitely detailed observations about the world around him. His most frequent and welcomed visitors are the titmice outside his window. But there are other occasional visitors to his self-chosen hermitage as well. On rare occasions, he kayaks and hikes to visit his neighbors or they come crashing loudly into his peaceful solitude to drink vodka and tell tales. As his time on the edge of the forest continues, he adopts two small puppies as companions, changing the tenor of his isolated life.

Some of Tesson's entries in his journal are brief and others longer meditations on a life both tiny and vast. Sitting at his window and watching the lake, he captures the mutability of the weather and of his own moods. He celebrates the peaceful calm of life in seclusion and concludes that hermits are not fighting against the world when they retreat, they are simple walking away from it. He reads philosophy, other accounts of solitary living, and some popular crime novels for an interlude between the heavier books. But mainly he observes the world around him as he goes about his days: the weather, the wildlife, the forest, and even the rocks catch his eye. Current events, personal and political, rarely intrude on his self-contained life on the taiga although the occasional visitor brings days old newspapers and he hears both of his sister's baby's birth and of his girlfriend's final goodbye on his mostly unused satellite phone. This is a very contemplative and slow book, mirroring Tesson's days. But in the reading of it, it asks you to take a brief respite from all the noise swirling around, to sink into its words, and to commune with that tiny piece of your own soul engaged by the loveliness of the writing and the thoughts between these covers ( )
2 vote whitreidtan | Dec 2, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sylvain Tessonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Coverdale, LindaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gratama, EefTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Want ik ben een man van
de bossen en de eenzaamheid.
Knut Hamsun
Vrijheid bestaat nog altijd.
Je moet er alleen een prijs voor betalen.
Henry de Montherlant,
Carnets, 1957
For Arnaud Humann
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Ik had me voorgenomen om voor mijn veertigste als een kluizenaar in het bos te gaan wonen.
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Vijf jaar lang heb ik van dit leven gedroomd. Nu maak ik het mee alsof het iets normaals is. Onze dromen komen uit, maar het zijn slechts zeepbellen die onvermijdelijk uiteenspatten.
Geen toegangswegen, sporadisch bezoek. 's Winters -30 graden Celsius, 's zomers beren in de buurt. Kortom, het paradijs.
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"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.… (more)

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