I am opening today a new section to share the life of our collections in the library. « Postcard from the shelves », that means new bookcovers, new acquisitions, and stories behind these books. Perhaps sometimes I will also display stories from the front desk and micro adventures between the shelves, who knows, the librarian job is much more eventful than you can imagine.

This week we received the last book from Sylvain Tesson, a french novelist and traveller. He has been travelling the world for many years, on foot, on a bike, on a horse. In 2010, he decided to spend a few months alone on the banks of the Baïkal Lake, he documented this 2010 experience in a book, the Guardian reviewed it briefly.

This one is different, still on the russian territory but in movement : Tesson intended to travel the same way the napoleon troops walked back to France in 1812 from their russian defeat at the famous Berezina battle. This was a unique human slaughter for the Great Army, and its burial : there were dozens of thousands casualties, due to the cold of the terrible russian winter, hunger, diseases and despair.

On december 2012, it took less than 15 days to Tesson and his fellow companions to travel from Moscow to Paris. They did it on russian side-cars, with sometimes terrible weather, but this is only the beginning of the story, a story surrounded by the shadow of death.


First, Tesson began the writing of the book the day after his mother died out. Then, last summer, he finally managed to achieve his manuscript and give it to his publisher.  They celebrated the event in a chalet in Chamonix, and, as he is an unceasing climber, Tesson jumped on the roof of the chalet and intended to climb furthermore. Alas, he fell 10 meters and was put to induced coma to treat his multiple skull and bones fractures.

Now he’s getting much better, he presented his book in the most famous literary television broadcast in France, but you can see he still suffers from after-effects, he must sustain his jaws to speak correctly.

Sylvain Tesson certainly won’t be the next Nobel Prize in literature, but he’s a curious character, sometimes extreme, sometimes poetic, and you wonder what he will come up with his next book.