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  • Doug Belshaw 6:49 am on February 27, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: introspection, , Stefan Zweig,   

    Writing is a process of discovery 

    Unable, or perhaps unwilling, to do my usual exercise due to not being able to wear contact lenses at the moment, I sat down yesterday evening with my back to our bedroom radiator to read Stefan Zweig’s Montaigne.

    It’s a short book, and quite odd, in that it doesn’t really quote much from Montaigne’s Essays, nor does it go into a lot of detail about his life. Instead, what I appreciated about Zweig’s writing is that it simultaneously discusses the impact that Montaigne has had on the author, and the context within which Montaigne lived and wrote.

    I hadn’t realised, for example, that the famous circular tower in which Montaigne wrote (his ‘citadel’) was somewhere he’d retreated to aged just 37. Nor was I aware that, a decade later, Montaigne realised that he could never fully retreat from the world, and so set about on a tour of Europe, never planning ahead where to go next, but just going where he fancied. He was away (with a small retinue) for two years.

    Of course, all of this was possible for Montaigne because of his estate and the income generated by it. But I didn’t know that this was quite a recent thing, ancestrally-speaking, for the Montaignes. In fact, even that surname was purchased, along with a coat of arms. Only a couple of generations previously his family had been fish merchants!

    What I’ve always appreciated in Montaigne’s writing is that, as many others have said before me, he was a kind of 16th-century ‘blogger’. By starting from introspection, humility, and self-deprecation, he was able to write some of the finest essays ever written. Although he too had his foibles around fame and glory, it’s a reminder to me to write for myself, first and foremost.

  • Doug Belshaw 12:30 pm on February 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Stefan Zweig,   

    For one of life’s mysterious laws shows that we only notice the authentic and essential when it’s too late: youth, once it has fled, health at the moment it abandons us, freedom of the soul, that must precious essence, at the very moment when it is taken from us, or has already been taken.

    Stefan Zweig

  • Doug Belshaw 10:14 am on February 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , scepticism wisdom, Stefan Zweig   

    It is the business of youth to recoil from the counsel of gentleness, of scepticism. Doubt becomes an obstacle, for a youth has need of faith and ideals to give free rein to the impetuosity borne within. And even the most radical, the most absurd illusions, as long as they inflame, would in his eyes have more importance than the most profound wisdom, which saps the strength of his will.

    Stefan Zweig

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