Essayists: Michel Montaigne

I  like to read essays, when they are well written. Not too many words, if they are not really needed.

Essays demonstrate the thinking process of the writer and oftenly they are even much better than texts from some philosophers.

What else  can we learn from reading essays ?

  • that depends on the writer: Michel Montaigne writes much about his daily problems, Samuel Pepys about his daily political work. By the way, Pepys was famous to have a large personal library of 3000 books. Nowadays  we all can create our own personal library with much more eBooks, if we like.
  • others refine their essays, until they get some piece of art, like for instance Kleist in his essay On the Marionette Theater

The  variety of topics, styles and  personalities of the essay writers makes it an enjoyable experience, to read essays and doing this, we do an excellent workout for our brain.

If one masters a foreign language, it is of course even more fun, to read the essays in the natural language of the writers. And with the Kindle Readers, especially the Kindle White, it is quite comfortable.

If one does not understand a foreign word, one can mark it with a click and an integrated dictionary will open. The unknown word is even stored on a flashcard for later repetition. But up to now not a repetition algorithm according to Leitner is integrated.

Besides reading essays it is also an excellent training, to write ones own essays. Some people like to write diaries, but I find it more motivating, to write essays. This helps to understand a topic much better, than only reading about it.

Montaigne is in general considered to be the first essayist. But that is only valid, if one puts the form of an essay into  quite narrow limits. Since people mastered to write texts, they also have written texts, which are similar to an essay.

I think, that Dschuang Dsi also wrote essays;  he tried to clarify a problem, by writing about it and using different approaches, to clarify the problem and eventually find a solution.

More important than the form of a text  is  its  content.

Should one read all essays of a writer in one go ?

I prefer, to read texts from many writers parallel. Not only essays, but also some belletristik, pieces of classical literature or philosophical texts etc.  And using the Amazon eBook-Readers, it is easy, to come back after several weeks to a  book and go on reading it, because the position is marked, where one stopped to read.

I find that more enjoyable, than reading thick books in one go. There are some exceptions of course, if a book is very fascinating.

Montaigne has written many essays and the best approach may be, to browse all of them and just read those, in which one is most interested. One must not read all of them.

His essays are published in English  at the online library  Project Gutenberg.

In French or as translations in other languages, they are also available of course.

One should pay attention, if really all essays are published in a translation. I dislike, if somebody decides, what is worth to read. I want to decide that myself and not get misled by the filtered view of somebody. That is also an important reason, to read religious or philosophical  texts in their natural language, if possible.

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