I was introduced to Montaigne when I was 18. I hope to sometime run into the man who introduced me to this work. He sold the stories very well to me, and I devoured the book. He comments in his essays about the absolute range of human endeavour, from frienship, to torture, to sex, to the Education of Children.
The American philosopher Eric Hoffer employed Montaigne both stylistically and in thought. In Hoffer’s memoir, Truth Imagined, he said of Montaigne, “He was writing about me. He knew my innermost thoughts.”
The reason I bring up Montaigne, is I came across the following Book review in the LA Times addressing a new biography of the great man.
Montaigne is certainly the author an amazing ‘commonplace’ .
Blogs are certainly the modern interpretation of the common place idea. Hence the purpose of writing this blog, may be to help me to learn how to live better. Which is a very human idea.
But, of course, the Montaigne party has still not ended, and it is the measure of Bakewell’s book that she makes it seem like the hottest ticket in town. As she reminds us,
the best reason to read Montaigne is the one he would most approve: because it helps us contemplate ourselves
. Surely we, too, need to think about Liars and Idleness and Prognostications; about Solitude and Moderation; about Friendship and Age and Sleep. Surely we need to read about the Education of Children, and the Uncertainty of our Judgments, and the Inequality Among Us. Surely we, too, need to learn how to live. It is not that Montaigne’s essays contain an answer to that question. It is that they are an answer. How to live? Try.
It is said that great literature is timeless. What strikes me most about Mathematics and Culture (or anything done very very well) is the absolute timelessness of it. Montaigne should be read by us now, and by our descendants,
In sum, this book, like its subject, is expansive, genre-defying, and preposterously smart.
Works of Genius truly do last for ever. And perhaps the next book I re-read will be Montaigne. It sounds confusing to some but a book like that truly changes lives. And in some sense I don’t think we read Montaigne, like with Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Shakespeare, Goethe or Poincare we meet them.
And like all the wonderful people we meet in our lives, they change us.