Writer Sylvain Tesson embarks on a journey with expert animal observer Vincent Munier in the high rocky plateaux of China, looking for the soon to be extinct and mythic Snow Leopard. They have to survive at polar temperatures in desolate landscapes where nature and wilderness reign supreme. The long hours of waiting for the famed leopard to cross the line of their cameras provide the notoriously prolix author plenty to think of the place of humankind and its evolution.
Where did progress lead men ? Is the beauty of the natural order worth trading for the modern comfort in concrete soulless cities ? Will humankind inevitably annihilate the last remnants of wilderness, and destroy its link to nature in the process ? These and many other questions are asked and answered by the author in a certainly pessimistic view of his fellow human. Despite traveling in search of truth and authenticity in a Western modern lifestyle that contradicts his beliefs, only in these vast cold lands does the author realize the vainness of it all. The looming pessimism can feel a bit overbearing at times.
But beyond the grimness, there are warmth, humor and poetry to be found also. How funny it is to read Tesson’s urge for talking philosophy and aphorisms to his companions’s indifference (and possibly annoyance) when silence and discretion oblige to find and film the animals. What prevails though is the sense of beauty exuding from every chapter. From the ethereal depiction of the yaks’ heard to the first magical sighting of the leopard and the brutality of nature giving way to perpetual spiritual renewal, the book offers plenty to marvel at. Beyond this expedition, there is a tender urge to rethink the spirituality of the world through our relation with nature.