Review: Back to the Wild: A Practical Manual for Uncivilized Times

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Back to the Wild: A Practical Manual for Uncivilized Times

Alain Saury, Translated by Rachael Levalley
Street: 08.18

Alain Saury—French filmmaker, poet and nature conservationist—has posthumously released (with the aid of translator Rachael Levalley) a masterful fusion of the physical and metaphysical survival manuals. Saury’s Back to the Wild presents the reader with a wide array of topics and how-to explanations, ranging from the expected (building shelter, finding water, scavenging/hunting) and the greatly needed (telling time in the wild, predicting the weather, craft working) to the often overlooked (physical/mental health, love, sex, living connected to nature) and much more. Syntactically and semantically, Back to the Wild presents something of a challenge. Perhaps due to translation, the grammatical structure is often more convoluted than is necessary, words play too often with vague or dual meanings and most descriptions are simply not as exact as they could be. Yet, seemingly to make up for these faults, we have Saury consistently extrapolating on his philosophical leanings, which are pleasing to behold, but make one quite ashamed of humanity. Despite all of Back to the Wild’s noticeable flaws, the work is too near comprehensive to ignore—when time grays my features and I set out for the bosom of our Great Mother, Back to the Wild will be at my side. –Z. Smith