Bookblog: Dersu The Trapper
“Few reach the very heart of the taiga. It is too vast. The wayfarer is ever struggling with the force of vegetation. Many secrets does the taiga conceal in her breast, hiding them jealously from prying eyes of man. She seems morose and grim. That is the first impression. But the man who grows to know her better soon becomes accustomed to her, and pines if taken away from the forest if he does not see the forest for long. It is only outwardly that the taiga seems dead; in truth she is full of life.”
Dersu the Trapper is a geographers memoir of his travels through the Ussurian taiga with a small band of Cossacks and his guide Dersu Uzala. This book is like poetry, painting a magical picture of this wild country back when the plants and animals still owned it and these intrepid explorers head out into the great unknown - knowing only of their feeble place within Mother Nature’s realm..
Arseniev does not paint himself as the macho adventurer and Dersu some noble savage. It’s more a Skywalker/Yoda relationship. Dersu is so at one with the mother of all wildernesses he overcomes momentous danger from beast, weather and, of course, man with a whispered humility (so the thrills and spills are subtle), while Arseniev ponders his way through adventure with a besieged determination.
The taiga’s rich abundance of unchecked life is inspiring and the characters within the book are truly depicted and compelling. We all know about the American West… try a bit of the Wild East in this Russian Classic - Dersu The Trapper is a wonderful portrait of a time long gone.