The Consolations of the Forest: highlights and giveaway

The Consolations of the Forest:

Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga

   Consolations of the Forest

The Consolations of the Forest
Sylvain Tesson
Translated from the French by Linda Coverdale
Rizzoli Ex Libris
Pub. Date: 9/17/2013, first published in France in 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8478-4127-1
Pages:  256
Awards: Prix Médicis
from the publisher for a
virtual book tour on France Book Tours


Buy this Book

As I said in my review published some time ago, The Consolations of the Forest is definitely my most favorite nonfiction book of the year.
If you know someone who like prose close to poetry, travel, memoirs, and a quiet inner life, this would make a superb Christmas gift.


Let me share with you today some of the quotations I really enjoyed:


In the depths of the taiga, I changed myself completely, staying put brought me what I could no longer find on any journey. The genius loci helped me to tame time . p.2

Villages smoke at the foot of the hills, wreathed in mists trapped in the shallows. faced with visions like these, the supremacist painter Kazimir Malevich wrote, “whoever has crossed Siberia can never again aspire to happiness. ” p. 6

The cabin smokes in its grove of cedars. Snow has meringued the roof, and the beams are the colors of gingerbread. I’m hungry.  p.9

Living  within four wooden walls amid frozen marshes calls for modest ambitions, and these hamlets are not made to last. They’re a clutch of shacks creaking in the north wind. The Romans built for the ages; a Russian just wants to get through the winter. p.14

My table, set right up against the eastern window, occupies its entire width, in the Russian fashion. Slavs can sit for hours watching raindrops on windowpanes. Once in a while they get up, invade a country, have a revolution, and then go back to dreaming at their windows in overheated rooms. In the winter they sip tea interminably, in no hurry to go outside . p.20

Cold, silence, and solitude conditions that tomorrow will become more valuable than gold. On an overpopulated, overheated, and noisy planet, a forest cabin is an Eldorado. p.23

The cabin, realm of simplification. beneath the pines, life is reduced to vital gestures, and time spared from daily chores is spent in rest, contemplation, small pleasures. The array of things to be done has shrunk. reading, drawing water, cutting wood, writing, pouring tea: such things become liturgies. p.25

Light ennobles all it touches even glancingly: the wood, the row of books, the knife handles, the curve of a face and of time going by, even the dust motes in the air. That’s not nothing, to be specks of dust in this world. p.44

To get the day off to a good start, it’s important to remember one’s duties. in order: greetings to the sun, the lake, and the little cedar growing in front of the cabin, on which, every evening, the moon hangs up its lantern. p. 55

When the lake plays its composition of diffused crackings and detonations, this is what it is: the music of the inorganic and undifferentiated, a melody from the lower depths, the symphony of the world making its long- ago debut. A nameless something bubbles and gurgles, while over the basso continuo of its convulsions, a snowflake or titmouse tries out a little tune. p.60

In the end, these guys are touching. They’ve got the mugs of fellows who would tear Chechens limb from limb, and they delicately share their crackers with the Titmouse. p.77

This evening, the snow is still falling. watching it, the buddhist says, “let’s not expect any change “; the christian,” tomorrow will be better”; the pagan, “what does all this mean ?” The stoic, “we’ll see what happens “; the nihilist,”let it bury everything “; and I say, “I’ll have to cut some wood before the woodpile gets snowed under. Then I put another log  in the stove and go to bed. p.80

I felt that to be happy, I needed nothing more than the library. [In Casanova quoted p.85]

When you organize your life around the idea of possessing nothing -then you have everything you need. page 149

Putting names to plants and animals using field guides is like recognizing superstars in the street thanks to celebrity magazines. Instead of “Ohmigod, it’s madonna ,” you exclaim, “wow, there’s a siberian crane!”, page 168

To love is not to celebrate one’s own reflection in the face of one’s double, but to recognize the value of what one can never know. page 171

Contemplation is what clever people call laziness to justify it in the eyes of the supercilious, who watch to ensure that we all “find our place in an active society.” p.203
Later, a salmon-colored moon swims up the current of the night to go lay its single monstrous egg in a nest of clouds. p. 203


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 Goodreads]


Sylvain TessonSylvain Tesson is a writer, journalist, and celebrated traveler. He has been exploring Central Asia—on foot, bicycle, and horse—since 1997. A best-seller in his native France, he is published all over the world—and now in the United States. [from the publisher’s website]

Sylvain Tesson est le fils de Marie-Claude et Philippe Tesson et le frère de la comédienne Stéphanie Tesson et de la journaliste d’art Daphné Tesson.
Géographe de formation, il effectue en 1993 un tour du monde à bicyclette avec Alexandre Poussin avec qui il traverse l’Himalaya à pied en 1997. Il traverse également les steppes d’Asie centrale à cheval avec la photographe et compagne Priscilla Telmon, sur plus de 3 000 km du Kazakhstan à l’Ouzbékistan. En 2004, il reprend l’itinéraire des évadés du goulag en suivant le récit de Sławomir Rawicz : The Long Walk (1955)1. Ce périple l’emmène de la Sibérie jusqu’en Inde à pied.
Sylvain était également un « escaladeur de cathédrales » et au sein d’un cercle d’acrobates on le surnommait « le prince des chats », tandis qu’il escaladait Notre-Dame de Paris, le Mont-Saint-Michel, l’église Sainte Clotilde et d’autres monuments (principalement des églises) à Orléans, Argentan, Reims, Amiens ou encore Anvers.
En 2010, après avoir fait allusion à ce projet de nombreuses fois, Sylvain Tesson passe six mois en ermite dans une cabane au sud de la Sibérie, sur les bords du lac Baïkal, non loin d’Irkoutsk. Selon ses propres dires : « Recette du bonheur : une fenêtre sur le Baïkal, une table devant la fenêtre ».
Il voyage la plupart du temps par ses propres moyens, c’est-à-dire sans le soutien de la technique moderne, en totale autonomie. Ses expéditions sont financées par la réalisation de documentaires, par des cycles de conférences et par la vente de ses récits d’expédition.
Il écrit également des nouvelles. Il signe de nombreuses préfaces et commentaires de films. Il collabore à diverses revues. On peut retrouver ses bloc-notes chaque mois dans le magazine Grands reportages. Depuis 2004, il multiplie les reportages pour Le Figaro Magazine avec le photographe Thomas Goisque et le peintre Bertrand de Miollis. Il signe plusieurs documentaires pour la chaîne France 5.
Il obtient le prix Goncourt de la Nouvelle en 2009, pour Une vie à coucher dehors (éditions Gallimard, 2009) et le prix Médicis essai en 2011 pour Dans les forêts de Sibérie. [from Goodreads]


Good luck!


* If you have problems entering the giveaway for this book, please send me an email before midnight on 12/15 at ehc16e {at] yahoo [dot) com. Include in it:

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4 thoughts on “The Consolations of the Forest: highlights and giveaway

  1. Pingback: France Book Tours stops for Dec 2-7 | France Book Tours

  2. Pingback: Sylvain Tesson on Tour: The Consolations Of The Forest | France Book Tours

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