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Reveries of the Solitary Walker (Classics) Paperback – 22 Nov 1979
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About the Author
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born in Geneva in 1712. Abandoned by his father at the age of ten, he left the city in 1728 and from then on wandered Europe, searching for happiness. In 1732 he settled for eight years at Les Charmettes, remembered in his book Confessions. In 1741 he moved to Paris where he met Diderot, in the meantime fathering five children, all of whom he abandoned. His corwning achievement is his work of political philosophy, The Social Contract, which was published in 1762. He died in 1778.
Peter France is the author of books on French and Russian literature and has translated widely from both languages.
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Top customer reviews
Almost all the book is devoted, directly or indirectly, to 'the persecutions of men, their hate, their scorn, their insults and all the evil deeds' that have made of Rousseau 'a plaything of their Judas kisses'. Despite frequent protestations that this persecution has diverted his life into a way of peace, of indifference to and even forgetfulness of that hatred, Rousseau gives lie to that assertion on virtually every page.
Some of his writings certainly did create difficulties with the authorities, but that's true of some of his contemporaries as well: Diderot, as I remember, was actually trundled off to prison. Morever, far from being a hermit in the wilderness, Rousseau was famous, admired, and apparently had powerful supporters. If the tone of the writing and the obssessive preoccupation with enemies haven't made the reader suspect that the problem is more a clinical than a political one, the references to spies who follow him, to the obituary containing a dig at him, and to the enemies who by destroying his incognito turn peasant villagers against him should do so. (The nearly total self-absorption, though, and the self-justification in the guise of philosophical arguments might well be personality traits that would make a few real enemies.)
There's so much to like about the book itself: its apparent sincerity, the fact that like the Confessions it lays a personality bare, the terrific writing (cf 'plaything of their Judas kisses'), the way it grips and holds one's interest. Not to mention Rousseau's technique for dealing with any Great Dane who might be charging toward one headlong . . .
It's all fascinating stuff and very readable. But it's not the reveries of a solitary walker.
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