In 1570, shaken by the death of his father, the French statesman Montaigne retired from public life and began to write. Over the next few decades, his Essais (or "attempts") grew into one of the great works of the Renaissance; a philosophical text that, in its thoroughgoing scepticism, sounded a strikingly modern note.
In this richly enjoyable book, Saul Frampton interprets the Essais through the prism of Montaigne's life, arguing that he found writing therapeutic. Frampton's style is playful, allusive. He memorably compares his subject to Jimmy Stewart's character in It's a Wonderful Life; like George Bailey, Montaigne overcame despair to rediscover the "texture of the simple fabric of experience".
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