Friday, December 13, 2013

The Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin in the Siberian Taiga; Sylvain Tesson

 Sylvain Tesson - 2013
In The Consolations of the Forest,  author, Sylvain Tesson, 41, is a French born writer who felt the need to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and people. In this book he chronicles his life as a hermit, resulting from a self-imposed exile in a 10’ by 10’cabin in the woods on Siberia’s Lake Baikal, from February – July, 2010.
Tesson got the idea of this undertaking after he spent 3 days in a cabin with a ranger. He knew this was something he needed to do, because of the unexplained peace he had felt after the 3 day stay.  Things were a little different being isolated this time around. For 5 months his closest neighbor and the village was about 75 miles away.
In winter the ice around him would freeze over some 3+ feet thick. The cabin was originally constructed in the 1980’s in a clearing in a cedar forest to be used by geologists.  
Tesson’s staples for his stay included a crate of about 70 books, cigars, rice, pasta, sauce, vodka and 10 boxes of pain relievers for his headaches which would follow drinking too much vodka.  Journaling his experiences the author filled the daylight hours with things like chopping firewood, ice fishing, skating, hiking and looking forward to a daily visit from a titmouse which he would feed. When he had enough daylight, he’d retreat to the cabin for some reading, journaling and drinking.
I enjoyed his journal entries and observations of the world around him. As well as his thoughts on wildlife, reactions to old news obtained from cast of newspapers he received from time to time. Some of the entries are short and others longer, some filled with humor and some deep and thought provoking.
I was very curious about this book after reading a few rave reviews, and while I am glad I read it, I wasn't wowed by it. I have to agree to what another reviewer said: the fact that the author kept warm in Siberia with vodka much of the time, is only so interesting.”  I did like his response to the question when asked why he chose to do what he did by himself, and his response was, “I was behind on my reading.”
3.5/5 stars (library book)


  1. thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one. I thought the writing was awesome, and I think i will choose it as my favorite nonfiction of the year. see my 2013 recap post, in January 2014!

  2. That's so funny about the books. I could just see that somehow I wouldn't be in the mood to read any of the 70 and there I'd be, stuck out there with nothing to read! LOL

    1. I like peace and quiet and aloneness sometimes, but I'd be saying "get me out of here" after a day or so. I need a coffee shop close by at least:)

  3. I love solitude but that's too much. And I agree with Jill.

  4. Nice review. I'd get frostbite just reading this. Solitude would be ok but I can't stand the cold and in Siberia I'd be stuck inside. Shudder! If I needed solitude to catch up on my reading I'd head for a deserted island in the Caribbean.

  5. I love that the vodka kept him warm. Did he return home when he ran out?
    A brave thing to do on your own. Being that isolated out in harsh conditions would make me hyperventilate just planning for it!


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