Who has never dreamed of one day giving it all up? Of turning away from the comfort of a conventional life, from man’s society and of disappearing for new horizons? The lure of escape can rear its head at any moment and in any area of life, it takes on altogether different forms for different people and we can assume that it affects a great many of our contemporaries. Some will merely think about it, others jump at the chance and relish adventure. It is in order to better define this phenomenon that this book focuses on our desire for change. From the retreat into the desert advocated by 4th Century Christian hermits to the exalted praise of escape seen from the 1960s, it is in literature that we find the most unexpected answers. From Petrarch to Rousseau, Tolstoy to Flaubert, without overlooking Simenon or Pascal Quignard, the author shows that, behind this need for retreat, we rediscover this same surprising and paradoxical secret: escape from the world is nothing other than a means of truly entering it.