Usually a person writes a book. In our case, the opposite is true.

Each of us read this book on time. Seryozha – to change his life. I – so as not to change anything in my own.

This book is called Walden, or Life in the Woods. American Henry Thoreau wrote it in 1854. Thoreau himself was only thirty-seven that year. Seryozha Kornienko read it in Penza when he was not even thirty. I only got to Thoreau’s book when I was seventy.

Result: after reading, Kornienko fell ill with this book forever. As, however, many, many young people in different countries and in different years.

What was hidden in that text? Why did Henry Thoreau’s book make different people, in the words of Brodsky, become dependent on it?

In my opinion, the correct answer sounds like this: Thoreau spoke with his reader very frankly, simply, convincingly and bluntly about the most important thing – how to build your life so that it does not depend on the state and its institutions, but depends only on you. I would also simplify this answer: how to become independent and not depend on anyone.

Why was Thoreau believed? Because he referred exclusively to personal experience. He described in detail how with his own hands he built a small house in the forest on the shore of the lake, equipped it with simple wooden furniture, folded the hearth, insulated the walls, dug up a vegetable garden, planted legumes and other plants necessary for life. He even lists his accounts. In the prices of the time, it all cost him $ 28 and 12 cents. Thoreau describes in detail how he lived in Walden for two years, how happily he spent that time.

A house in the woods and a starry sky overhead is a dream come true for Henry Thoreau and his followers. Photo: Yuri Lepsky

The Walden Wanderer convincingly argued: a normal person does not need many things, most of what accompanies us is superfluous. A person should not keep up with fashion, it is enough for him to dress simply and practically. Because clothes and things are not the main thing in life. And what? Life itself is in harmony with nature, moderation and hard work.

This is how he wrote.

“A person’s wealth is measured by the number of things that are easy for him to give up.”

“Get food so that it is not hard work, but joy.”

“I went to the forest because I wanted to live reasonably, to deal only with the most important factors of life and to try to learn something from her, so that it would not be before death that I did not live at all. I did not want to live by fakes instead of life – she is too precious for this … “

“Human society is usually too accessible. We meet too often, not having time to acquire new value for each other. We gather at the table three times a day and treat each other with the same old moldy cheese – our own special”.

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to seek it.”

“The richest person is the person whose joys require the least money” …

I repeat: Thoreau was simple and convincing. The only thing that was required of the reader was to take the path he discovered. This happened to Seryozha Kornienko.

We studied together at the Faculty of Journalism. Then they worked for a Far Eastern newspaper for some time. At that time, our relationship was quite friendly. We argued, talked about life, drank, sang songs. Seryozha sang beautifully with Kukin’s guitar. And one day he came to me in the morning, took a guitar and sang the beautiful song that had just appeared by Vizbor “I would steal a new life like a thief” …

Now that the outcome of this life is final, I have nothing but respect for him.

Seryozha did not steal his new life, he built it himself. He, like his idol Thoreau, became disillusioned with journalism (Henry was also a reporter), tried publishing – it did not work out (Henry also did not work out in his father’s pencil factory). And then he decides to do what the author of “Walden” did. He settles in an old wooden house on the outskirts of a village in his native Penza region, puts on a stove for heating, digs a garden and begins life in the forest.

After a while, like Thoreau, he wrote his “Walden” – “The Island of Wanderings, Or How to Start a New Life”. He did everything he believed in reading that book. Exactly a year ago, Serezha Kornienko died in his lonely home. He was 69 years old. His idol Henry Thoreau passed away at 44.

Now that the outcome of this life is final, I feel nothing for him but respect. He himself built his destiny according to the script, which he sincerely considered the best. He managed to live a full-fledged private life, depending only on himself, and not on the notorious “times” and “circumstances.” And now, if I have any questions, it is only to myself.

Why didn’t I change anything in my life after reading the book by Henry Thoreau? Because by the time this book fell into my hands, I had time to read and understand something else. That is why I accepted Thoreau’s book not as a revelation, but as a manifesto of a like-minded person. The ideas of Thoreau and not only Thoreau managed to come to me in a roundabout way and take root in my soul. Reasonable needs, attention to nature, fruitful loneliness, priority of private life – all this has already been assimilated by “my grace”. Probably, Seryozha himself played an important role in this, our long-standing disputes about how to live …

And something else. There is something about Thoreau’s Walden that I cannot agree with to this day. This is a statement that any profession makes a person its voluntary slave. I don’t know about “any profession”. It’s easier for me to talk about my own. So, my profession brought me together with wonderful people, perhaps the best in my Fatherland, and not only in mine; my profession allowed me to see and at least partially understand how people live in other countries, it opened to me amazing places that have since become a part of my life; my profession allowed me to learn a lot not only about our being, but also about myself; my profession told me what real freedom is; my profession taught me a lot, without it I would be uninteresting to myself …

There is one more question to which I have no answer. And if I, like Seryozha, had read that book in my early youth, would I have had enough fearlessness and will to build my life “according to Walden?”



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