Art & Culture

Published on June 9th, 2020 | by Chloe Niccolo


Book Review: The Extraordinary Story of “The last hermit” by Michaël Finkel

[True story] As touching as it is revolting.

On his own, he has committed the most crimes in the United States (over 1,000). Petty thievery to live his life of freedom.

Christopher Knight is a boy with no history. At 20, he decides to quit his job. On a whim, he takes his car and drives. He passes by his house, and continues on his way without stopping, with no specific goal, he just goes towards the mountains of Maine.

When he stops, he takes out the few things he has in his trunk which includes his sleeping bag, then tosses his car keys, and ventures into the mountains where he will remain hidden in the most remote and inaccessible part for more than 27 years. In a little more than a quarter of a century Christopher has only once exchanged  a simple “hello” with a hiker who he happened to run into.

To live, he had to steal. Leftover food from a nearby summer camp, books, batteries, candy, jeans, gas cans, etc. Without ever harming or damaging anyone or anything. And no one has ever known who was behind the wrongdoing.

But it is hunger that will put an end to his freedom, spotted by surveillance cameras. From then on, it’s a long descent into hell for those who wanted to live out their vision of freedom.

“I am not in my element.”

Michaël Finkel, the author of this story is a journalist and he’s the only one with whom Christopher Knight has agreed to speak. Communicating with a man who has avoided all human contact for so long is no small task.

Photo Credit: Bookreads

To understand this irrepressible need for freedom and solitude is tough. To know how he could have lived so long in this unfriendly environment and especially how he dealt with the extreme winter temperatures in these mountains is hard to believe.

It’s difficult to understand the motivations of Christopher Knight. Nevertheless a touching story about a man that simply wants to live out his dream and really only concerns him, especially interesting is his will to recover his freedom.

It’s appalling the way society judges him without trying to understand him, going as far as labelling him with a mental illness, stating that he doesn’t fit into the  mold of a well-thinking society.

So yes, we can argue that stealing is a crime, especially if we put ourselves in the place of those he stole from… That doesn’t prevent us from feeling a considerable amount of empathy for Christopher Knight.

The story is interesting and informative because the case with Christopher Knight isn’t an isolated case. We learn a lot about hermits around the world, their origins and their lifestyles.

A story that makes us think about our own relationship with society and loneliness.

“I’m going to walk with the Lady of the Woods. […] This is the only way that will set me free. “

“The last hermit” – Michaël Finkel – Trad. Johan Frederik Hel Guedj – Editions JC Lattès – 2017

#FaitsRéels #Récit #ChristopherKnight #Ermite #MichaelFinkel #USA #Société

This article was translated in English by John Wilmot.

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