Did he want the job?
- Montaigne: A Life by Philippe Desan, translated by Steven Rendall and Lisa Neal
Princeton, 796 pp, £32.95, January 2017, ISBN 978 0 691 16787 9
Montaigne presents an unusual case for a biographer: since his essays are full of personal details, his readers feel that they know him well already. He tells us that he lacks the impulse to cuddle babies, that he can scarcely tell the cabbages from the lettuces in his garden, that he loses and regains his temper quickly, that he enjoys sex only before going to bed and never standing up, that he knows no greater pain than that of a kidney stone blocking the urinary tract, and no greater relief than when the stone passes. These details stick. Whatever else you get out of the Essays, you will remember the kidney stones.
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