Sylvain Tesson’s “Consolations of the Forest” is a travelogue that brings us to the frozen shores of lake Baikal in Siberia. In this book, Tesson fights the restlessness that has brought him on travels far and wide and explores the power of contemplation and stillness in a secluded forest cabin. Tesson’s book looks at losing and finding way metaphorically as he seeks life’s meaning and the way back to oneself.
Sylvain Tesson found a radical solution to his need for freedom, one as ancient as the experiences of the hermits in Old Russia: he decided to lock himself alone in a cabin in the middle taiga, on the shores of Lake Baikal, for six months. From February to July 2010, he lived in silence, solitude, and cold. His cabin, built by Soviet geologists in the Brezhnev years, was a cube of logs three metres by three metres, heated by a cast iron skillet, a six-day walk from the nearest village.
To live isolated from the world while retaining one's sanity requires a routine, Tesson discovered. In the morning, he would read, write, smoke or draw, and then devote hours to cutting wood, shovelling snow and fishing. Emotionally, these months proved a challenge, and the loneliness was crippling. Noting carefully, almost daily, his impressions of the silence, his struggles to survive in a hostile nature, his despair, his doubts, but also moments of ecstasy, inner peace and harmony with nature, Sylvain Teson shares with us an extraordinary experience.