In search of the simple life, Sylvain Tesson spent six months living in a remote hut on the shore of Siberia’s Lake Baikal, on a retreat that reveals much about our need for escape
I stayed at Lake Baikal for the first time in 2003. Walking along the shore, I discovered cabins at regular intervals, inhabited by strangely happy recluses. Five years later I chanced to spend three days with a ranger in a tiny izba, a traditional Russian log cabin, on the eastern shore of the lake. At night we sipped vodka and played chess; during the day I helped him haul in his fishing nets. We hardly spoke, but we read a lot. That was when I promised myself I would live alone in a cabin for a few months before I turned 40.
So, two years ago, I left my home in Paris and spent six months in a little hut on the Lake’s western shore, very far from civilisation: it was six days’ walk to the nearest village, a day from the nearest neighbour, and there were no access roads.