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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Novel but interesting approach to biography,
This review is from: How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (Paperback)Michel Eyquem de Montaigne was born in 1533. His early education was entirely in Latin leaving him with little way to communicate with his family except through the shaky Latin of his father and conversational Latin of his servants. He lived in a tower overlooking his estate, was a magistrate and sometime mayor of Bordeaux. It is hard to see how lessons on life from this mediaeval French philosopher can be relevant to a modern audience and yet throughout the centuries many people have read the Essays and seem themselves in their pages for the simple reason that he is so brutally honest and open about his life that one begins to look on Montaigne as a friend. We learn about his bowel movements, his sexual exploits, what food he likes and about his relationship with his cat.
Montaigne was a true man of the Renaissance. Carved into the roof of his library were maxims of his Greek and Roman heroes, Cicero, Seneca, Virgil and Socrates et al. His philosophy melded the Hellenic schools of Scepticism, Epicurianism and Stoicism holding key the two key principles that unite them all, eudaimonia, the pursuit of a good life and that of ataraxia, having a tranquillity of the mind. This means not being overcome by extreme emotions, and preparing oneself mentally for all the pitfalls life can offer, meeting them with a level head.
Bakewell's unconventional approach to biography pays off as one can see how fond she is of her subject, a trait which is quite contagious. Whilst Montaigne's philosophy can appear to be cold and unemotional, you can see that he is trying to save us from emotional pain, perhaps of the kind he underwent himself when he lost the closest friend of his life, his soul mate Etienne de la Boetie to the plague. But the highest compliment that can be paid to this book is that it makes you want turn to its source, the Essays themselves and for that reason alone I feel I can highly recommend this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid biography and history of a work,
This review is from: How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (Paperback)This is a wonderful book. It ties a biography of Montaigne into a history of his masterpieces, Les Essais, and a study of the ideas treated in his book.
5.0 out of 5 stars How to Live and Die,
This review is from: How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (Paperback)5.0 out of 5 stars How to Live and Die, Dec 1 2013
By The Rideau Reader - See all my reviews
This review is from: How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (Paperback)
Sarah Bakewell's new biography of Michel Eyquem de Montaigne is a delight. Although not a "life and times" biography, Bakewell successfully enters Montaigne's 16th Century world, which turns out to be quite a mess, even by the standards of French history.
Montaigne lived through France's religious wars when Protestants and Catholics tore the country apart. Montaigne was a Catholic with many Protestant friends and he did what he could to promote moderation. Being an aristocrat he knew and counselled leaders on both sides without seeking political power for himself. He was happiest on his rural estate writing introspective essays in his famous tower.
Because of his essays, one of the glories of French literature, Montaigne is a biographer's dream. Simply put, he spent a large part of his life writing about himself. Bakewell imitates Montaigne's own methods by trying to illuminate the man through 20 essays that address how Montaigne chose to live.
I found one aspect especially haunting. Montaigne wrote that one could not take the full measure of a man (yes he was sexist) without knowing how he met his own death. I'm sure Montaigne hoped for an easy death but this was not to be. He slowly choked over several days and it took all of his courage to bear it with the stoicism and dignity that contemporaries described.
This biography is well worth reading and will prompt you to get a copy of the great man's essays and read them for yourself.
John Mundy "The Rideau Reader"
5.0 out of 5 stars Tmeless vitality,
This review is from: How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (Hardcover)Ms Sharah Bakewell offers a significant, accessible analysis of a work that connects the person of Montaigne with reader. Long ago the development of character was replaced by our focus on celebrity. For a man/person who is a contrarian but not an annoying egoist, who quietly attempts to improve himself without perhaps realizing how to define the process this book will feed your imagination and read your mind.
If you are contemplative, if you see the inauthencity of conflict, if you want to live a good life, without reservation I would recommend this book
5.0 out of 5 stars How to live: Alife of Montaigne in one questions and twenty attempts,
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars reviewing A LIFE OF MONTAIGNE...,
This review is from: How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (Hardcover)THIS IS REALLY AN OUTSTANDING BOOK ON MONTAIGNE ! HIGHLY INFORMATIVE AND A PLEASURE TO READ.
KUDOS TO AUTHOR SARAH BAKEWELL.
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How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell (Paperback - Feb. 7 2011)
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