La vie en cabane: Petit discours sur la frugalité er le retour à l’essentiel is a short essay on the concept of hut as an archetype. The hut, in all its forms, is here presented as a shelter for those human beings who still want to preserve their humanity, as a challenge for the modern man who decides to escape the city and its hyperconsumerism to immerge himself in the wilderness.
David Lefèvre drops out of uni, quits his job and starts travelling. His natural tendency for nomadism brings him to travel around the world and, between one roaming and the other, to find shelter in huts.
Eventually, he decides to settle in a hut built on a lakeshore of the Chiloé Island, in Chile, where he still lives.
As a result of this lifestyle, La vie en cabane is an ode to the frugal living based on the rejection of material goods, an ode to the mystic relationship between man and nature which is here represented by the hut. Moreover, this book is a collection of interesting information and thoughts on the role of the hut in the history of humankind: from the sealskin tents of the Acaluf in Patagonia to the homlessess’ shacks at the edge of the French cities; from the Mycenaeans’ stone cabines for the votive offering to the native Americans’ sweat lodge; from the temporary shelters of the anchorites, the Sufi mystics or the Yamabushi monks to the tents of the contemporary opposition movements camping on places of protest.
The childhood’s hut, that hidden corner where adults cannot enter, for the grown-up human being becomes a choice of self-sufficiency and freedom from any kind of possession, a voluntary exile to experience solitude and regeneration, to make time to reflect and being creative. It’s also a totally ecological life choice in a world where the environment keeps getting destroyed:
Designed to be part of the surrounding space, it blends with the matter that gave birth to it. “Soluble” in the landscape, it doesn’t hurt the eye but represents life and it fits in respectfully: it’s a window to the world that saw it coming to life.
If it falls to ruin, the earth swallows it and digest it. If colonized by the vegetation, it doesn’t leave any garbage under the trees. If built in the woods, once collapsed and exhausted by the time, it will preserve the faded beauty of a great work. If built on the lakeshore, it will evoke the ravaged wrecks, masterpieces of the marine cemeteries.
[…] The outside feeds the inside and fades in it. Open to the nature, it encourages to live our life outdoor, towards its expansion zone, to refresh and open one’s soul, to bring down the four walls that deprive it of introspectivness.
David Lefèvre, La Grammatica della Sobrietà (pg. 29-30, ed. Ediciclo Editore)
What we loved
The reason why we consider La Vie en Cabane by D. Lefèvre one of the most important books among all we have read for our trip is definitely the fact that we share the author’s point of view on the malaise of our modern time and on the importance of living with the essential. For those who decide to leap into the void, leave everything behind – the four walls of a house in town, a full time job, the alienating and sedentary daily routine and most of their belongings – and stuff the essential in a backpack, reading this book is a great fortune.
It’s necessary to experience the lightness of depriving oneself of everything and compare it to the heaviness of material overabundance.
David Lefèvre, La Grammatica della Sobrietà (pg. 52, ed. Ediciclo Editore)
Although we are not making a choice as “extreme” as the one made by Lefèvre – or at least we don’t want to at this stage of our life – we totally agree with him on the need to restore the connection with nature and the possibility of a more “sober” and less alienating lifestyle:
In its claiming the right to free time, the postponement of life, lived in urgency and ruled by duties and compromises, hides a civilitazion’s malaise
Clung to urban environments for social reasons and tired to feed the moving platforms of a hyperconsumerism considered as a virtuous model, many citizens, trapped in a narrow perimeter, are looking for something different from their daily life.
David Lefèvre, La Grammatica della Sobrietà (pg. 79, ed. Ediciclo Editore)
What could have been better
Just one thing: the book doesn’t contain the coordinates of Lefèvre’s hut.
If you ever read this review, know that we would be happy to come and visit you!
Who we recommend it for
First of all, we recommend La Vie en Cabane to whom is thinking to embark on an adventure involving moving away from the city’s concrete and getting close to nature. Generally speaking, we recommend it to anyone who, like us, is leaving the certain for the uncertain through a trip or a path of economic degrowth.
La Vie en Cabane by David Lefèvre is an unmissable collection of information and thoughts on the relationship between man and nature, revolving around the concept of the hut. The hut becomes the symbol of precariousness as well as the refusal of a sedentary and alienating life.
What makes this book unique is definitely the fact of not being the product of a theoretical knowledge. On the contrary, it’s the product of the author’s direct experience, a man who left everything to find joy in a hut on a Chilean lakeshore.