Friday, September 17, 2021

My hero / Michel de Montaigne by Yiyun Li

Michel de Montaigne



My hero: 

Michel de Montaigne

 by Yiyun Li

He looked at everything with curiosity, and tried to make sense of everything he studied – for the benefit of his readers, says Yiyun Li


Saturday 13 November 2010

N

othing comforts me more than the thought of living an unobserved life, and for at least an hour a day I achieve that, reading Montaigne's essays. It's good to know that in this Montaigne-land, which I discovered when I turned 30 and haven't abandoned since, I am a nobody. There are other nobodies, but one does not have to exchange pleasantries or small talk with them, nor does one have to worry about who owns what – in Montaigne-land, everyone owns each brick, each tree, every bird. Try as you might, you cannot possibly be in other people's way.

What a writer Montaigne was (and what a chatterbox)! Un-plagued by worries of being selfconscious, sentimental or inappropriate, he looked at everything with curiosity, and tried to make sense of everything he studied – for the benefit of his readers, but above all for himself. Nothing better can be said of Montaigne than the words of these two eminent nobodies: "It seemed to me as if I had myself written the book, in some former life, so sincerely it spoke to my thought and experience" (Emerson); "It is not in Montaigne but in myself, that I find all that I see in him" (Pascal).

I read Montaigne in the late afternoons, before picking up my children and cooking dinner for the family. Sometimes I sigh because he has found better words than I have for something I've been pondering; sometimes I laugh at him, as he can be too silly, or too wordy. But the laughter is directed at myself, as his folly is my own too. In a book dedicated to communicating one man's thoughts to the world, a fortunate reader like me can live as a hermit yet never be far from the real world – from the intense experience of living in that world.

THE GUARDIAN




2009
001 My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd
002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm

2010

017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

2011
079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill

2012

190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer

2015
2016




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