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On the Wandering Paths

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Member Reviews

I enjoy reading books of this nature. An account by someone who has walked across a country. Just so amazing and introspective. I enjoyed reading about their experiences and descriptives of places Tesson visited. I dream of doing the same, Great vicarious book for a slow day of reading.
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This was not my favorite book of this genre, but it was an enjoyable read. I really love books about modern day explorers traveling and living off the land and the locals, but I felt that this one fell a little flat for me. I wish more of us lived closer to the land and more in tune with it and I love when books provide that sense of longing for that through their writing, but this one felt a little preachy at times. 

I did enjoy the landscape and area with which he traveled and wrote about. It is something that I have not had much chance to read about and so was new and interesting to hear the stories of. 

I would recommend this story to explorer/memoir fans, as even if it is not my favorite it was still a short and enjoyable read.
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This was a nice slow pace novel. It was interesting to read and I am glad that I have read it. I read quite a few travel writings and live learning about new places. Unfortunately I didn't learn very much from reading this book. This was more of a Memoir following the authors terrible accident that needed spine surgery and his connection with nature again. Although I commend the author for continuing with his journey. I just didn't connect with the book at all. It really wasn't exciting nor engaging. Nothing was overly explained so that you learnt things about the areas visited. I would probably give this book more of a 2.5 stars. If you are a fan of this French author then try a sample of this book which is available with most major retailers. 

I think because this book was a translation maybe alot for the emotions and passions where probably lost in translation. 

I would like to thank the author and publishers for allowing me to read this book for review. 

The above review has already been placed on goodreads, waterstones, Google books, Barnes&noble, kobo, amazon UK where found and my blog today either under my name or ladyreading365
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Every long march has its moments of salvation. We set out on the road, we make our way forward by seeking out perspectives in the bramble and avoiding the village. We seek out shelter for the evening. We reimburse ourselves in the form of dreams composed from the sadness of the day.

French author Sylvain Tesson, known for his travelogues with a twist, often involving very long walks, obscure motorcycle journeys, or Siberian isolation, suffered a climbing accident that landed him hospitalized in a coma. As he slowly recovered, he promised himself he’d make the most of having the ability to walk again, deciding to walk the ancient trails through the mountainous region of southern France once he could. Being used to much farther flung locales, as he puts it: “I found it rather inconsiderate to have traveled the world over without exploring the treasures in one’s own backyard.”

On the Wandering Paths is the freshly translated account of the walk that ensued, through the heart of France’s interior “hyperrural” areas on the trails that peasants once navigated through the countryside. It weaves in his feelings around recently losing his mother, as well as meditations on technology, consumer culture, our overly connected world, and any other philosophical and literary thoughts that pop into his head.

If you’ve read Tesson before, you may have an idea what to expect: bold, a little grouchy, lyrical, sentimental — always something of the Russian concept of toska in his work as well.

This was not my favorite of his (I know I said that about his last to be translated into English too) but it did shift and perk up in my mind towards the end. And I think I eventually understood why he wrote what he did and the way he did, considering his mindset and the “bad chapter” of life he was in when he undertook this journey. It was probably more cathartic for him than other readers, but I liked feeling that I understood him and what this journey to meant to him – he really shows his transformation and why he needed transforming in the first place. And I got a couple of especially delightful Tesson lines out of it. Most towards the end; I promise it’s really worth sticking with.

One must still respond to the invitations made by maps, believe in their promises, cross entire countries, and stand there for a couple of minutes so as to close out a bad chapter in one’s life.

And all the pain eventually washes away, and one is set back upright on one’s two feet.

But fair warning going in, although it has some intriguing descriptions of road-less-traveled countryside and forest and a few Characters with a capital C he encounters to give it a travelogue feel, it’s much more of an internal journey than an external one, and I think any description of it tends to favor the latter so that might feel disappointing depending on expectation. It’s also probably best to have some familiarity with Tesson’s work previously — not to understand this one, but just to get who he is and where he’s coming from.

With The Art of Patience, I mentioned being annoyed at some esoteric and antiquated vocabulary that I thought the translator had chosen where simpler or at least more common words would do, but it was the same thing here with a different translator so I see that’s a Tesson problem. I don’t remember that from Consolations of the Forest or Berezina, the two of his I’ve loved, but it does take you out of the reading.

Still, I’m so happy when anything of his gets translated, and if you also enjoy him you’ll find something to appreciate here too. I hope they do L’Axe du loup next! (They won’t, it’s a more than a decade old and a longer book so I doubt it’s high on any publisher’s translation list but I want to read that one so bad!)

While staying at a bed-and-breakfast in Azay-sur-Indre, I discovered a book about the history of the penal colony in Cayenne, French Guiana. I also came across the antiphony of those condemned there: “The past betrayed me, the present torments me, the future horrifies me.” Walking in the woods swept away these fears. I perhaps could also compose a ritual chant: “The past obliges me, the present heals me, I don’t give a damn about the future.”
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Reading translated books always makes for an interesting experience--you're reading the translator as much as the author!

In this particular read, I didn't feel the translation did the author any favors. I never really connected with Tesson, nor did I find the narrative particularly compelling. It is a very introspective journey--which to a point, I appreciate and usually enjoy; I'm an ISTJ myself, and the introverted/thinking elements of my own personality certainly were lit; alas, the read just didn't pan out, not to mention Tesson's painting many people and beliefs with a broad brushstroke. It left little room for dialogue.

Ultimately a DNF read.

I received an eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher University of Minnesota Press for an advanced copy of this book on both travel and self-reflection.

Accidents especially near fatal ones make one look back at the life as lived and see all the unfinished things, the relationships that were allowed to fall, and the numerous mistakes. There is always the trail not taken, the going West when East was also possible, the easy wrongs instead of the more difficult rights. Writer, amateur philosophy and world traveller Sylvain Tesson had plenty of time to dwell on all these things after a near fatal fall left him in hospital with skull fractures, facial paralysis, lots of screws and bolts holding him together and the drive to cross France on foot, if he could ever walk again. On the Wandering Paths, translated from the French by Drew Burk is a book about his walk, one with many questions and thoughts about France  and its changing people and ways. 

The book takes place in 2016 almost two years after Tesson after a fall from the roof of a chalet had left him near death, and unable to attend his own mother's funeral. The accident had left him not only with a broken body, but with a mind that seemed to be floating and lost. avow he had made that if he could get better and walk out of the hospital, that he would do his best to cross France by foot, was hoped to help heal mind and body. The path he opted for was one that would take him through what would be considered hyperrural, places that the country acknowledged as underserved by services technology or anything. This would give him time to think about himself, and what he was seeing in his country. 

The book is more of a study of Tesson than a book about travel. There are discussions about what he is seeing and what he is passing by, buy most of the book is more internal, about what he sees and experiences. This is not a John McPhee or a Paul Theroux. There is far more Tesson, less about the terrain. There are a few conversations with locals, but that is mostly the purchasing of some cheese, or sharing a newspaper. Not much about local life, or local experiences. The writing is very good, slightly detached like our narrator, but very interesting in a lot of spots. Not the book I expected, but as a reader I still found it interesting. 

The book was a bestseller in France and made into a movie also. Not a travel book, but a book about life, looking back and looking around. At the end of his walk all that time alone might have helped Tesson deal with his problems, which I guess is something a travel book should do. Help you reach and understand your destination.
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DNF at 25%. Nothing but Rambling. No direct interaction, no interesting occasions, just meandering thoughts. I‘ll refrain from posting reviews at Amazon or such.
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Thank you netgalley for the free ARC Copy. 

I love travel books, I love travelling and seeing the world but with this pandemic I have to settle with reading about different places thus picking out this book. The author's story is admirable and inspiring but there is a disconnect with his situation and the story he is building. We get a lot of his thoughts especially about hyperruralism, globalization and the internet. I didn't really get to explore rural and coastal France as much as I want to. This feels like reading some ramblings. The dates are also very vague, a year would have provided more context. Some pictures would have been nice as well.
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ON THE WANDERING PATHS manages to subvert our expectations in the most surprising ways. Rather than hone in on the journey itself, with full-bodied depictions of France's rural landscape, we get political and historical digressions. As a result, we never feel like we're there with the author, or even what shape and essence the setting is meant to assume, exactly. Perhaps French readers can conjure vivid images of the mentioned locations, to feel their texture and smells, just from seeing their names on the page. Unfortunately, the rest of us are not so lucky.

Similarly, rather than plunge into Tesson's battered psyche, a cumulative result of both his physical and mental trauma, the text leaves us on the margins of his thoughts regarding the modern world. The strange disparity between cause and effect in the book is so great that we often lose sight of why the author has set out on this journey to begin with, or even how deeply it all resonates with him. And so, it's both an internal story, and one that is oddly untethered to human emotion.
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We start this book in the growing output of French writer, thinker and traveller Sylvain Tesson by learning he's just come out of a year-long hell, of having his face, spine and other rather important body parts patched together, after he fell off a building.  The talk was of restorative physiotherapy, eventually – but the therapy had started in his mind, with the plan to walk from SE to NW France, forever trying to use ancient trails, farm tracks, the paths of animals and other routes, so as to avoid the modern built environment.  What we get however is not for the general browser – it's quite the pretentious mix of thinking about globalisation, and the current French impetus to get all their tiny communities and houses online, however remote and "hyperrural", and the usual inward look at what such a walk does to a man.

As a result the travelogue side of things is of the more frustrating kind – seldom do we get a clear picture of what he's looking at (outside of himself, that is), and while I never thought we'd get a guide to following his every turn, the experience of finding and using these trails is scarce.  The aftertaste when you include the evident ecology lesson is, then, that he has done it, and it is perfectly easy to do – but don't you dare look to do it yourself.  Whether that was the intent or not he comes across as how he clearly doesn't want to appear to the few locals he meets – a proselytising Parisian intellectual, despite himself.  After loving his company in following Napoleon's retreat from Moscow back to France, this was a let-down, destination Pseuds Corner more than anywhere else.
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