It's been a while since I read a book about Siberia. I miss it. But rectified this weekend through French travel writer Sylvain Tesson's Consolations of the Forest. For six months in 2010 he lived alone in a log cabin, 3m x 3m, on the shore of Lake Baikal. The nearest village was 75 miles away and the nearest other human a stiff day's walk through the taiga. He had plenty of food, books, cigars, vodka and was well-prepared for temperatures of -30C.
Why did he do it? It wasn't simply to get away - he's been travelling for years. No, it was, in his words, to slow down time, to experience existence stripped to bare essentials. One is tempted to say he did a lot of nothing, but it's surprising what one can fill days with. He read, wrote and thought, yes, but he balanced this with physical stuff like skating on the frozen lake, pulling a sledge for three days, climbing a nearby mountain, chopping wood. And what of his life back home in Paris? His girlfriend dumped him.