Montaigne’s Kidney Stones: An Appreciation
December 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
For anyone who has had trouble loving Montaigne’s essays as much as modern essayists are supposed to love them — because come on, he does get pedantic at times — here is a fine appreciation — with important distinctions — from the sharp pen of Sonya Huber over at ‘Her Kind,’ the VIDA Blog. We think she has nailed it. Montaigne himself has yet to weigh in.
Here’s an excerpt:
As I made it past the 1300-page mark, I was glad to get to this sentence: “I am not excessively fond either of salads or fruits, except melons. My father hated all sorts of sauces; I love them all.”I sighed with relief when Montaigne stopped quoting Seneca and turned toward his real body, even when he dished about the details of his agony with kidney stones. Give me melons, give me sauces—just give me something specific, something with taste and smell and heft.
I had already been told that Montaigne taught himself to write as he wrote, developing his skill over time; nobody explicitly told me to avoid two-thirds of his work, but I should have. I didn’t hear, however, that Montaigne’s decaying body was also his writing teacher. As he ages and becomes ill, he becomes vulnerable and specific. Melons and kidney stones give me something personal, something that reminds me of Montaigne as a corporeal being. Montaigne’s kidney stones bring him back to himself and make him strangely most alive.