I recently devoured a fantastic book about the Renaissance writer and ‘inventor’ of the essay, Michel de Montaigne. ‘How to Live: A life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer’ by Sarah Bakewell is a fascinating look at an inspiring man.
I’d first heard about Montaigne from Richie, who read an abridged version of his essays in university I think. What made him sound so interesting to me is the fact that he wrote about all sorts of topics in a very open-minded and questioning way. He sounds like a man fascinated with life, with human nature, with everything around him. I also like the fact that he seems to be a great humanist, honestly looking at himself and everything around him, and yet doing so with a sense of humour, not taking life too seriously, and maintaining a positive view of humanity.
So, Richie bought this interesting book, which is a biography of the man himself, as well as being a history of other people’s interpretations and reactions to him over the centuries since he lived and wrote. I loved it and now I can’t wait to get my hands on the essays themselves and read Montaigne’s actual ideas!
Anyway, it was an inspiring read about a man who enjoyed humanity (and animals too!), who devoted himself to living well, being in the moment, questioning everything and avoiding close-minded or dogmatic thinking, especially remarkable since he lived during a time of great violence and religious hatred in France’s wars of religion. A great book to make one think again about what it means to live a good life and really experience the world with a fresh perspective.