- Taschenbuch: 400 Seiten
- Verlag: Vintage Books (7. Februar 2011)
- Sprache: Englisch
- ISBN-10: 009948515X
- ISBN-13: 978-0099485155
- Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13 x 2,8 x 19,8 cm
- Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 2 Kundenrezensionen
- Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 10.910 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 7. Februar 2011
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"With this splendidly conceived and exquisitely written double biography - of both Montaigne the man and Montaigne the book - Sarah Bakewell should persuade another generation to fall in love with Montaigne" (Sunday Times)
"How to live is a superb, spirited introduction to the master, and should have its readers rushing straight to the essays themselves" (Adam Thorpe Guardian)
"Sarah Bakewell has written a marvellously confident and clear introduction to Montaigne...a rare achievement. Sarah Bakewell deserves congratulations for opening Montaigne to new readers so very appealingly" (Evening Standard)
"Illuminating and humane book... It's rare to come across a biographer who remains so deliciously fond of her subject... How to Live will delight and illuminate" (Independent)
"Bakewell writes with verve. This is an intellectually lively treatment of a Renaissance giant and his world" (Daily Telegraph)
Part biography, part self-help, an original, funny and moving portrait of Montaigne, Renaissance nobleman and essayist.Alle Produktbeschreibungen
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Readers should be advised that Montaigne's efforts are not of the same sort as the Facebook and Tweet pronouncements of our selfie-centered times. Mountain's careful reconnoiter of his own life and times that Bakewell has selected here depicts a person determined to know himself in the world, not to show himself off to the world.
Perhaps most refreshing of all Montaigne's enviable traits that Bakewell takes particular effort to point out is his abiding caution to readers of his essays that his opinions are his alone and as such contain the caveat that he could be wrong. What a thing to read in our current age of heralding the know-it-all who most often knows the least of all.
The ingenuity of the biography helps explain why critical reception of Bakewell's own book was so positive. But the plain fact is that Bakewell is also a stylish writer, capable of holding our fascinated (and occasionally amused) attention, even when she is discussing the minutiae of successive editions or of obscure editorial quarrels. The book was warmly recommended to me by a friend who said flatly it was the best book he'd read in a year or, indeed, in any recent year. You'll probably find this kind of enthusiasm in many of the Amazon reviews. If you're interested in philosophy or in a charismatic writer and thinker in a long bygone, tumultuous era, and if you care about artful construction and stylish writing, this might be the book for you. It certainly was for me.
P.S., I simultaneously read the Kindle version of the book and listened to the Audible version beautifully read by Davina Porter.
SB’s biography answers the question, ‘how to live?’ in twenty chapters, each of them keyed to a theme in Montaigne’s work. Hence, chapter 9: “Q. How to live? A. Be convivial: live with others.” The themes, however, do not trump the biography. This is not an endless examination of thematic content with an occasional look at the events in Montaigne’s life. It is a systematic biography held together by thin thematic divisions.
It is also a very learned biography, expanding at length, e.g., on the civil wars of the period, the driving ideologies, weaponry and specific details, both personal and political. It studies, e.g., the manner in which the texts of the Essays have come down to us, (what we would call) the copy texts, the emendations, the condensations, and so on. There is comparatively little on the content of the Essays themselves, ‘comparatively’ being the operative word. We learn a great deal about Montaigne’s classical influences, the nature of his pyrhonnism, the dimensions of his political associations, his personal relationships, his estate, its winemaking, and so on, but the only essay that is discussed at some length is (as one would expect) the longest of the essays, the Apology for Raymond Sebond.
It is sometimes said that the first requirement for a great biography is the author’s love for her subject (balanced, always, by a willingness to speak the truth, wherever its elements might fall). SB clearly admires Montaigne and wishes that today’s thinkers, writers and politicians (Montaigne served in all three capacities) would read him, be inspired by him and take lessons from him.
The writing is crisp and clear, direct and candid. While it is undergirded by a great deal of scholarship that scholarship does not drag the book down and bore the reader with tedious details. It contains a bibliography, index and series of endnotes, sufficient to guide the reader to other texts and explore/verify issues that have come under question.
The book is very much like its subject—a pleasant, human and humane read that takes on difficult subjects with a light touch and details experiences that will find echoes in the reader’s own heart.
One factor that shaped his life was that his body produced kidney stones, which at the time were not only grotesquely painful but also potentially fatal (if you have never seen a kidney stone, there is a photograph in the book of what these agents of torture look like, little spheres with sharp spikes which are emitted, if you are lucky, through the penis). Knowing that he might die at any moment in agony, as ultimately he did, shaped his philosophy.
His philosophy was to be moderate, to be ordinary and to appreciate the smaller things of life. He was not consistent, not methodical, not heroic, not pretentious, not prudish and not serious about life. Nor were his essays any of these things. He is supposed to have been influenced by certain Greek and Roman philosophers, but he reminds me a bit of Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's Ulysses. During a period when Catholics and Protestants were murdering each other like Sunnis and Shias today, he tried to persuade people not to take religion so seriously, and to grant other people their humanity. His greatest gift was the gift of empathy.
This book is about his life, his works and the period in which he lived. There is a description of what it was like to travel from Bordeaux to Rome. At the gates of Rome Montaigne's baggage was searched for subversive materials. The author compares this to what it was like to travel to Moscow before the end of communism. There is a description of the horrible religious wars that took place during Montaigne's lifetime. There is also a description of the death of Henry III. Henry was stabbed to death by a vengeful Catholic priest while he (Henry) sat on the toilet. The question arises, how did the priest get in the bathroom? Apparently, it was the custom for royalty to receive visitors while sitting on the toilet. The ways of the exalted are mysterious to ordinary people like you and me.
The book also traces how Montaigne's essays were well received during his lifetime, and how future generations shaped him in accordance with their own spirits. The Catholic Church proscribed his works, then relented. He was made into a precursor of the Enlightenment by people of the Enlightenment and the precursor of Romanticism by romantics, and so on.
This book, like the essays of Montaigne themselves, is anything but linear. Like the essays, it takes playful twists and turns, doubling back, folding in on itself, telling parts of the same story sometimes in three different places. Sometimes it tells a story for no other reason than that it is a good story. For instance, the author says that since Montaigne is not alone at the pinnacle of French literature as Shakespeare is with English literature, Montaigne has never attracted people who deny that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare's plays. But then, immediately contradicting herself, just like Montaigne would have done, the author proceeds to tell the story of one 19th century crank who believed that not only did Francis Bacon write the plays of Shakespeare but also the essays of Montaigne, Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy and all of Christopher Marlowe's plays. Such asides have very little to do with the theme of the book, but that is typically how Montaigne himself would have written.
The author says that many people love Montaigne because he reminds them of themselves. So too with this book. It is a book which I would have wanted to have written myself, if I had had the skill. It also made me go out and buy French and English texts of Montaigne, and a CD of someone reading some of his essays.