Sarah Bakewell, author of How to Live, has a message to share with her readers on why she chose to write Montaigne’s new biography:
Why did I write about Montaigne? Mostly because I wanted to keep on reading him.
Ever since my early 20s, when I picked up his Essays by chance, wanting a good book for a long train journey, he never really left me. My first response to his work on that train was one of astonishment. How could someone who wrote in the 1500s sound so familiar, so conversational, so like me? It was like having a friend or a traveling companion sitting opposite me as we whizzed through the landscape. For years after that, Montaigne was never far from my side. And I discovered that practically everything else I read had the power of leading me back to him in some way—for Montaigne is the first truly modern author, the great hidden presence behind 400 years of literature, and indeed behind much of philosophy, politics, and social theory over those centuries.
This is mainly for one simple reason: No one before Montaigne had written so honestly and minutely about the inner world of a human being.