domingo, abril 20, 2014
Essais, de Michel de Montaigne
I had read a few excerpts of the Essais before, and found them immensely interesting, so the last time I went to Paris I bought the three volumes of the Folio pocket edition. I was amply rewarded! Montaigne had an incredible mind - observant, lucid, curious, tolerant, kind, ironic, funny... It's incredible how modern he sounds, discussing everything, from religion, justice, the New World (in this case with a clear-mindedness centuries ahead of his time) to love, friendship, jealousy and infidelity, to eating habits, clothing, illness and traveling. Never vulgar, he writes as if he was chatting over dinner, as he says he loved to do - stating that good company and pleasant conversation were the best dishes in a dinner party - and he takes us along his train of thought easily an pleasantly. Immensely knowledgeable and cultivated, especially on the classics he loved so much and quoted often, he surprises for his tolerance and good sense, which makes us realize how timeless great minds are. And above all, one is impressed by his love of life and living, and how he seems to have been able to grasp what was really important about it, what really mattered - to live, to enjoy every moment, not to pass through life worrying about the afterlife or the problems ahead (and this was in the 16th century!), and to accept death as a natural end to it all, not to be feared since it is inevitable. Actually, his thoughts about death and dying strikes us as remarkable for the time (even today, how many people have that good sense?): if there is an afterlife, he won't mind to be in the company of all those who died before, if there isn't, then there won't be any regrets because we won't feel anything anyway.
The French he writes in is elegant yet picturesquely ancient, which adds to the pleasure of reading, even if sometimes it makes it a little harder. But even if one has to reread some sentences to apprehend its full meaning, it's never a waste of time.
All in all, a fantastic book, hope to read it again sometime. I always felt richer and more complete after each time I read a few pages each day.