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3.89  ·  Rating details ·  699 ratings  ·  79 reviews
En octobre 1812, piégé dans Moscou en flammes, Napoléon replie la Grande Armée vers la France. Commence La retraite de Russie, l'une des plus tragique épopée de l'Histoire humaine. La Retraite est une course à La mort, une marche des fous, une échappée d'enfer. Deux cents ans plus tard, je décide de répéter l'itinéraire de l'armée agonisante, de ces cavaliers désarçonnés, ...more
Paperback, Démarches, 199 pages
Published January 22nd 2015 by Guérin
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Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  699 ratings  ·  79 reviews

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Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, travel
4 stars.
This is the story of a wild adventure. Three Frenchmen and two Russians decide to recreate Napoleon 's retreat from Moscow on the 200th anniversary of the brutal winter retreat. They do this on vintage USSR Ural motorcycles. They suffer in the bone chilling Russian winter, but do make the complete trip to Paris. They stop at historic battlefield sites and graveyards. They drink copious amounts of vodka every night along the way.
One quote: "Cold is a ferocious beast. It grabs you by a lim
Roman Clodia
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We have repeated the itinerary of the Grande Armée during its Retreat from Russia in 1812 on our three Soviet motorbikes with sidecars.

I'm not usually a reader of travel literature but this has an intriguing premise as three Frenchman and two Russians set out to follow the route of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. Tesson is such an entertaining companion: thoughtful, funny, informative, as he intersperses their journey with accounts they're reading of the French army's experience via contempo
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a trip! Three French guys and two Russians re-create Napoleon's awful and deadly retreat from Moscow to Paris in 1812. This time, the trip is made on Russian motorcycles with sidecars. The author and his friends have a wry sense of humor, and much the tone is off-beat and a little zany (in a good way). But the group is also thoughtful and reflective of the horrors of war, stopping to paid tribute to the thousands of men (and horses) who died gut-wrenching deaths in the devastating c ...more
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-travel
If the guys who made the TV show/movie Jackass wrote a book peppered with references to Journey to the End of the Night and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values, this might be the result.

This is a translated (from French) entry into what I think of as an English (meaning, often penned by people from England) genre, which I will dub Short Books about Extremely Ill-advised Travel. Other entries in this genre include Into the Heart of Borneo and The Places in Between.

May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
Mr. Sylvain Tesson elucidates to the uninitiated the deeper and transcendental meaning of the word “Doing a Berezina” in the French. Usually denoting an astonishingly unfortunate piece of event fro which a protagonist just about evades the inevitable, the phrase usually means: “We made it by a whisker guys, we felt if fly right by us, we got our fingers burned, but life goes on and Stuff The Queen Of England”

Berezina is also, on a more solemn and somber note, the river across which the Battle o
Beth Cato
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 2019, nonfiction
I received an advance review copy of this book via NetGalley.

This is a curious sort of travelogue. At first I wasn’t sure I liked it—this concept of the French author and his French and Russian buddies riding Urals to retrace the horrors of the collapse of Napoleon’s Grande Armee sounded flippant. The initial attitude came across as aggravatingly 'br'" as well. However, as the author delved deeper into the terrible tragedy of two centuries ago, it is clear that this is a journey conducted with a
Lisa Carter
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review of courtesy copy of Berezina, by Sylvain Tesson, translated from the French by Katherine Gregor.

Writer and extreme adventurer Sylvain Tesson is on an Arctic expedition when he decides that he and his friends should retrace Napoleon’s famous retreat from Moscow to Paris. They will also undertake this journey in the dead of winter, only on Ural motorcycles with sidecars. Billed as “…a riotous and erudite book that combines travel, history, comradery, and adventure,” Berezina is all of that,
Keith Sickle
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Tesson is a crazy guy who goes on crazy adventures, but he is also an excellent and thoughtful writer. This mix of history with a personal voyage is well told and very interesting.
Jun 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Tesson and a few friends decided to drive on sidecars from Moscow to Paris, to retrace Napoleon’s route after his debacle.

My full review is here:
Sonia Almeida Dias
This was a very good book, travel and history combined. The author has recreated Napoleon’s retreat from the Russian campaign in 1812 by going from Moscow to Paris, doing all this on a soviet bike with side car, an Ural. I had to google this, as I think I had never seen one.

Reading about travel and history are always sure bets for me, and this was no disappointment. I almost feel like doing a road trip myself. Maybe not something so adventurous, but definitely a visit to Belarus or Lithuania.

Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A really good book, and one certainly deserving of consideration. I wouldn't have approached this giving a single hoot, let alone two, about Napoleon's retreat from the burning Moscow. But this recreation (ish) of his journey, all two thousand miles and change back to Paris, really taught me a lot in amongst its travelogue detail. The journey here is not by starving horse, bridges made practically out of corpses, and mad-cap dashes on winter sledges, but by Soviet-built Ural motorbikes, complete ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, travel
Easy and entertaining read with interesting narration of the retreat of the french army from Russia in 1812.

It gives a brief overview of the scale of the battles and the general environment, Sylvain's writing (in french) is enjoyable and precise.

Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. Beautifully written.
Darius Ostrowski
This was a book that I really, really wanted to like. The premise, tracing the route of Napoleon's disastrous retreat from Moscow, was intriguing and looked to be fun. The added idea of following this path using Russian-built Ural motorcycles added a layer of humor and excitement to the journey. And the group of travelers seemed like they were destined for many interesting (vodka-fueled) adventures that would be recounted.

But this book left me wanting more on all accounts. The historical recount
Michael Reilly
Dec 31, 2020 rated it liked it
I, of course, read the English translation of this French book. It was translated by Katherine Gregor and published by Europa.

This is in the mad journey subset of travel literature. Tesson is a French traveler and writer. He and three friends decide to follow the track of the retreat of Napoleon's army from Moscow to France. In the winter, to make it authentic. On Russian motorcycles with sidecars that constantly breakdown and have a maximum speed of 50 MPH.

Tesson has a Hunter S. Thompson type
Oct 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, netgalley
Thank you to Europa Editions and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The premise of this book, tracing the route of Napoleon's disastrous retreat from Moscow, was intriguing and had me hooked from the word go. And doing it on Russian-built Ural motorcycles, with a group of travellers up for adventure, sounded like a genius idea and fuel for amazing stories.

Sadly, the book itself did not live up to the build-up. The history behind the route, and the recounting of the French ret
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
A lively and often hilarious account of how the author and 4 mates, 2 Frenchmen and 2 Russians, drove from Moscow back to Paris on old Russian side-cars in order to retrace the horrendous journey of the Grande Armée in 1812. The narrative goes back and forth between Napoleon's disastrous retreat and the adventures of the motley group of vodka-fueled bikers. Tesson is very candid about his passion for the Emperor and his inability to condemn him, even if this particular campaign was a colossal mi ...more
Andrew Beattie
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a fun quick read and kudos to the author! The author retraces the devastating retreat of Napoleon’s Army from Moscow to Paris and does so on Russian made Ural motorcycles! Sylvain Tesson fills the pages with his own twisted humour and irony. The only thing in this book that gets bogged down are the motorcycles on the trip. Otherwise the author keeps the story flowing with the history of the retreat at a steady pace that will likely leave you wanting for more. And intertwined in retracing ...more
Feb 12, 2020 rated it liked it
I read this in the English translation published by Europa Editions. Tesson had an interesting premise, but I’m still not completely clear on why he decided to take a Russian motorcycle on that route in the middle of winter. Nevertheless, it was quite interesting and readable, and I enjoyed the structure, which interwove the contemporary motorcycle journey with the miserable slog over generally the same route that Napoleon and his soldiers took in retreat 200 years earlier. I learned a lot about ...more
Elizabeth Rynecki
Five friends on Ural motorcycles (some with sidecars!) decide you retrace Napoleon’s 2,500 mile retreat of 1812. It’s a history travelogue reflecting on history, adventure, and friendship. It weaves together the history (which I knew almost nothing about and definitely looked up many things along the way) with the contemporary trials and tribulations of their road trip adventure. Lots of great lines in this book. One of my favorites: “That night, I felt I was falling asleep in the middle of Hist ...more
Stephanie Crowe
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyable travel and history of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow in 1812 but with a modern twist! Two Frenchmen and two Russians take the journey on Russian motorcycles called Urals. And their journey is in the winter copying the season and path of the original retreat. Sylvain Tesson transports the reader to a different place comparing the historical period and modern day changes! Great!
Joyce Peterson
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Only France could come up with the kind of intellectual man of action that is Sylvain Tesson. The idea sounds light-hearted—let's meet our Russian friends in Moscow and follow Napoleon's retreat back to Paris, on Ural sidecar motorcycles!—but between wisecracks this is actually a thoughtful exploration of warfare, animal welfare, empire and history. ...more
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction-2020
To see my review of this book go to:
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book about the cruelty of war and the retreat of the French army of Napoleon from Russia.
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Road Trip History

I chose this to get more understanding of Napoleon’s retreat. The travelogue technique served as an entertaining medium for the message.
Nov 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Took me forever to sink into but well worth it for the humor and retelling of the sad march home.
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great travel adventure! Three Frenchmen and two Russians, friends and serial adventure travelers, decide to follow the path of Napoleon’s Grande Armee in its retreat from Moscow to Paris. Rather than walk or ride horses as the army did, they choose to use Russian Urals (a motorcycle with a sidecar) AND to make this trip during the same time period (October through January) as the troops did. The author, Sylvain Tesson, is a historian, philosopher, and dedicated traveler. Fueled by copious quan ...more
Brice Fuqua
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The year 2012 marked the 200th anniversary of one of the greatest military defeats in history – Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. Although the Grande Armee defeated the Russians in every battle, a combination of a brutal winter, lack of food and relentless guerrilla attacks decimated the troops and destroyed the illusion of Napoleon as an invincible military genius.
The French writer and adventurer, Sylvain Tesson , decided to mark the anniversary by retracing Napoleon’s route on unreliable, Sovie
Danny Dukes
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great adventure with a history lesson.

This is only the second Tesson book translated into English, which is a terrible shame since he writes so well. Quite different from “Consolations of the Forest” his other book in English, but equally enjoyable if you like some history with your adventure.
Craig Fiebig
Nov 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lighter touch than Robert Kaplan but a fun historical travelogue of Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. The author's eye, captured in his words, made the reading even more interesting. "Even the Teutonic forest seemed to grow straighter than the [Polish] side" being one example. ...more
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Sylvain Tesson est le fils de Marie-Claude et Philippe Tesson et le frère de la comédienne Stéphanie Tesson et de la journaliste d'art Daphné Tesson.

Géographe de formation, il effectue en 1993 un tour du monde à bicyclette avec Alexandre Poussin avec qui il traverse l'Himalaya à pied en 1997. Il traverse également les steppes d'Asie centrale à cheval avec la photographe et compagne Priscilla Telmo

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