Customer Reviews


54 Reviews
5 star:
 (35)
4 star:
 (3)
3 star:
 (6)
2 star:
 (4)
1 star:
 (6)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


161 of 168 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare liked it. So will you
Montaigne wrote what he called "essays", in the sense of "attempts" - he was trying to find out what he thought about stuff. It helped that he'd read a great deal, led a pretty full life and had known some interesting people, although one of his great virtues is that he seems to have found them more interesting than they themselves probably thought...
Published on April 30, 2000 by lexo-2x

versus
54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Favorable reviews are all different translator
Be VERY careful when reading reviews. The Penguin reviews are for a different translation. This can be very important. Sample from Cotton translation: "It is an ordinary thing with several nations at this day to wound themselves in good earnest to gain credit to what they profess; of which our king, relates notable examples of what he has seen in Poland and done...
Published on March 2, 2012 by Satisfied customer


‹ Previous | 1 26 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

161 of 168 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare liked it. So will you, April 30, 2000
This review is from: Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Montaigne wrote what he called "essays", in the sense of "attempts" - he was trying to find out what he thought about stuff. It helped that he'd read a great deal, led a pretty full life and had known some interesting people, although one of his great virtues is that he seems to have found them more interesting than they themselves probably thought they were.
Pascal struggled all his life with the example of Montaigne. The problem for Pascal was that he was only really concerned with one thing - God's grace - and he was scandalised that Montaigne didn't seem to find it that big a deal. MM will write as readily about theological disputes and poetry as he will about sex, forgetfulness and his own stupidity. Apart from anything else, he was perhaps the first person to observe that nobody can pretend that his s*** doesn't stink (I can't remember the exact page, but then there _are_ over a thousand.)
There's a lifetime's reading in here. For such a big fat classic of a book it reads like it was written yesterday, although if it _had_ been written yesterday, he'd've been all over Hello! magazine by now.
Wisdom is maybe underrated these days, but Montaigne isn't just spouting off. This is not a 16th century evening with Morrie. You can see him thinking. He _encourages_ you. (What a great word "encourage" is.) It's not that bad for about fourteen quid.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


155 of 166 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Montaigne's Reasonable Use of Reason., June 23, 2001
This review is from: Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
MICHEL DE MONTAIGNE - THE COMPLETE ESSAYS. Translated and Edited with an Introduction and Notes by M. A. Screech. lviv + 1284 pp. (Penguin Classics). London : Penguin Books, 1993 and Reissued. ISBN 0-14-044604-4 (pbk.)
Those who discover Montaigne should count themselves very lucky. There are so many authors competing for our attention today, so many brilliant and less than brillliant men and women both contemporary and of the past, so many poets, novelists, philosophers, thinkers of every stripe, that Montaigne's voice can easily get lost in the general racket, like the voice of a single cricket on a noisy summer's night.
But Montaigne's voice is well worth singling out for special attention, like that one cricket whose song is especially musical, because there has never been anyone quite like him, nor anyone who has produced such a wealth of sensible observations on life and everything that goes to make it up.
We love Montaigne for his humanity, his wisdom, his clear insight into human nature, his tolerance of our weaknesses and failings, his love and compassion for all creatures whether man, animal, or plant, his calm, gentle and amiable voice, his stately and dignified progress as he conducts us through the vast repository of his mind. But above all we love him for his plain good sense.
Despite his distance in time, we can open these essays almost anywhere and immediately become engrossed. Some of what he says, particularly about our weaknesses and failings, may not be particularly welcome to some, though the open-minded will acknowledge its self-evident truth. Montaigne was not afraid to speak his mind, and as a man who was interested in almost everything, his observations range from the curious through to the truly profound.
At one time we find him, for example, discussing the best sexual position for conception, at others such deep notions as that "in truth we are but nothing" (p.555); "there is a plague on man, the opinion that he knows something" (p.543); thought as the chief source of our woes (p.514); "in man curiosity is an innate evil" (p.555); "only a fool is bound to his body by fear of death" (p.553); nature needs little to be satisfied" (p.526); there is only change (p.xvii); our absolute need for converse with others (p.421); how "if a ray of God's light touched us even slightly, it would be everywhere apparent : not only our words but our deeds would bear its lustre and its brightness. Everything emanating from us would be seen shining with that noble light" (p.493); how man should "lay aside that imaginary kingship over other creatures which is attributed to us" (p.487); how reason is not a special unique gift of human beings, marking us off from the rest of Nature" (p489); of how "we owe justice to men," and "gentleness and kindness" to "beasts, which have life and feelings [and] even to trees and plants" (p.488).
And so on through manifold topics, both weighty and light, his observations illustrated by stories contemporary and ancient, drawn not only from his incredibly wide learning, but also from his experience as man of the world.
The examples I've cited seem to me pitifully inadequate as describing or even suggesting the breadth of his thought - just a few examples selected at random that happen to appeal to me. Montaigne is too big to capture in a few words. His mind was as capacious as his enormous book, and he had something to say about almost everything. His is not so much a book as a companion for life.
Montaigne as that single special cricket singing away in the forest of learning along with thousands of others, is not only worth singling out because of his vast repertoire of songs, but even more because of the special way he sang them. What makes him so important and so valuable, especially to us today, is that he was characterized above all, not merely by reason, which is common enough, but by a REASONABLE, AND NOT EXCESSIVE, USE OF REASON. In other words, he knew that reason had its limits, that it was a tool limited in its applicability and useful only for certain purposes, and he had the good sense to know when we should stop.
There is in Montaigne a sanity, a balance, an affability, and a modesty and tolerance that is found in no other European thinker, and that reminds one more of the Chinese sage. But instead of fastening on the truly civilized pattern established by Montaigne, Europe instead chose Descartes, Apostle of the Excessive Use of Reason, and with what results we know.
The Cartesian ideology of Reason fueled and continues to fuel the relentless Juggernaut of Reason now underway that threatens to end up crushing everything beneath its wheels. Montaigne would have been appalled. He stood for something more human.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About Versions: Physical Copy, Kindle, and Translation, December 20, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Montaigne's Essays are one of the more enjoyable massive tomes of renaissance writing available, and if reading in English, one has two major modern choices of translation, Screech and Frame.

To start with Translation: Both major translations are excellent in their own way, but some differences are of note. When a translation is done, usually the translator will translate the major language of the text, French in this case, and leave quotes by the author from other languages, mostly Latin in this case, untranslated. The translator will provide a note with the translation of the quote, and preferably the source of the quote.

This is where Screech and Frame differ considerably. Screech does what should be done, and Frame just translates everything into English with no significant notations other than the person quoted. This means, however, that one may prefer one translation over the other based on this alone. For example, one that wishes to take a more scholarly look will likely use Screech (or the original), and one that simply wants to read for pleasure may have no problem using the translation by Frame. Also, Screech is British and Frame is American, so one may have other preferences for style.

As for the Physical Copy:

The physical copies of Frame's translation (Stanford and Everyman's) are vastly superior to the Penguin Classics Screech version. The Penguin paperback is thick, but in keeping with the generally small form factor, the print is terribly small, and the paper is of a horrible quality, which is the reason I also purchased the Kindle version.

As for the Kindle version:

The Penguin Classics Kindle file is much more pleasant to read and deal with than the paperback alternative. However, there are many errors in the Kindle version that are not present in the paperback version. It appears some items get corrected occasionally, but still, it is not nice to charge so much for the Kindle version, and not have it completely proofread and ready for primetime.

This actually lead me to have a conversation with a Penguin representative about the quality of the Kindle version, and in that conversation, I learned something I had not realized before. Penguin does not produce the Kindle version. Amazon does. So, all of the quality issues I have noticed in the past about Kindle versions essentially are the fault of Amazon rather than the publisher listed. I suppose the publisher only sells Amazon license to produce the Kindle file and sets price limitations, and Amazon does the rest. This needs to change, because there needs to be more quality control.

However, because of the limitations of the Penguin paperback, I would still recommend the Kindle version if one is to read Screech.

Five stars for Montaigne's Complete Essays, regardless of which version one chooses to read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


56 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essays, March 14, 2006
By 
Damian Kelleher (Brisbane, Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Montaigne. He has lessons for us all, I've found.

Some of the lessons are hard. He writes about everything, but most of all, he writes about himself. There is a painful clarity to his work - but that cliche term does nothing to properly explain what it is he accomplishes with his writing.

At thirty-three, Montaigne decided to retire to his home and write. He had vague ideas about writing a gentleman's book on warfare, and the first few essays reflect that. But, as he progressed, he kept going on little side journeys into his own thoughts and opinions. At first, Montaigne reigned himself in, struggling to stay true to the path he had decided for himself.

Happily for us, he failed.

He abandoned the idea of writing for gentlemen - though there are still slight evidences of this throughout the work. Instead, he decided to focus on the one thing he knew better than anybody else in the entire world - Montaigne. Who else could know more, or would bother to take as much time exploring this one man than the man himself? And why not explore his own mind - every day, he has to live and deal with the advantages and disadvantages, the habits and the thoughts, the opinions and the ironies of being Montaigne. Thus, he decided, it was worth exploring. In his view, there was nothing more important than understanding one's self. If you cannot understand yourself, how can you expect to understand anybody else?

There are moments of 'painful clarity', as I said above. Montaigne discusses (his) impotence, his imperfect marriage, the disappointments he has created in others, the times when he did not do what he should. But he also talks about how he can make himself a better person, and how, in a lot of ways, he is an admirable person. It is important to realise that Montaigne is not writing an apology for himself. He is putting himself on to paper, 'warts and all', and declaring it true. There is a point in one of the essays where he declares that he wouldn't want anyone to lie about the person he is, even if they flattered him or praised him. This is, in a nutshell, Montaigne's thinking. He is not concerned with being the greatest person ever known - he is concerned with understanding himself.

Four hundred years on, what is there to offer us, the modern reader, in Montaigne? An infinity of wisdom. Could I, in honesty, completely and unwaveringly disect myself for the consumption of both myself and others? I don't think so. I very much fear that the answer is no. And yet - why not? Is it shame? I don't think so, as I have nothing major to hide. Perhaps, then, it is simply the fear of unrealised ideas and thoughts. If I am unaware of myself, I cannot present it. Montaigne was and is aware of himself and thus manages to accurately describe the person that he is.

Montaigne's essays are invaluable not only for the man that they portray, but for the wisdom in what is spoken. Montaigne has thought about so many aspects of what it is to be a human and alive, and we can all learn from this. The topics he discusses go beyond mere 16th century issues, and deal with concepts, ideas and concerns that affect us now, and will affect us always. Absolutely essential reading.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Favorable reviews are all different translator, March 2, 2012
By 
Satisfied customer (Bedford, MA United States) - See all my reviews
Be VERY careful when reading reviews. The Penguin reviews are for a different translation. This can be very important. Sample from Cotton translation: "It is an ordinary thing with several nations at this day to wound themselves in good earnest to gain credit to what they profess; of which our king, relates notable examples of what he has seen in Poland and done towards himself."
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant work, skillfully translated, October 2, 2002
By 
B. Reed (Arlington, VA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Other reviewers here have commented about the contents of the essays and left me little to say. Instead, I have to pay a large compliment to the translator, M.A. Screech.
Aside from the clarity of his prose and his engaging tone, Screech managed to synthesize the multiple editions of the essays into a single work, giving the readers an insight into Montaigne's development.
The essays were originally published in three editions. With each revision, essays were amended, expanded, and edited as Montaigne's thoughts developed. Screech uses a subtle system to note these later additions and revisions, pointing out where the essays grew over time.
Screech's translations of the hundreds of classical quotations are also well handled, giving both the original language and a clear English rendering of the passage without interrupting the flow of the text.
This is an amazing book. Moving, insightful, humane, and thick enough to kill any bugs you choose to smack with it. I've had to order a second copy of this volume, since I've reduced my first copy to tatters, reading and rereading it. Okay, and smacking bugs.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If the price is around a dollar, you are looking at an old 17-century translation. New translation are available., October 19, 2010
By 
C. C. (San Jose, California) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This Kindle edition of Montaigne's Complete Essays get a three star rating because as of today Amazon is still treating different translations as if they are the same thing. So, if you are looking at something costing about a dollar, you are probably looking at an old translation by Charles Cotton, which is widely available for free on the internet from sources such as project Gutenberg, and I'd give it a rating of one star. On the other hand, if you are looking at something costing around $15, it might be a modern translation by M. A. Screech (from Penguin) and I will give it a five-star rating. Please be aware that these prices are subject to change in the future. If you are not certain which is which, download a sample first to make sure it is the edition you want.

The Charles Cotton translation Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays (mobi), dated back in the 17th century, could be a little hard to understand sometimes. If you prefer (as I do) to read a modern translation of Montaigne, M. A. Screech's excellent translation has just become available on Kindle The Complete Essays. It is a little more expensive than the Cotton translation, but well worth the money. I also have the complete essays translated by Donald Frame The Complete Essays of Montaigne, which I actually like a little more because I have been reading the book for a while. But it is a physical book and I don't think it is available on the Kindle yet.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Imperative reading for human beings, November 3, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
At critical junctures of my life I have found Montaigne to be the best source of understanding of what it is to be a civilized human being. The essays illuminate the self and our relationship to society. This book more than any other I know enables the reader to trace our relationship to issues that concern us today: freedom, appropriate behavior, individuals vs institutions, health, nature. You name it, MM deals with it. Buy this book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readers: Be Sure to Purchase the Screech Edition, February 28, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Before ordering the Kindle version of Montaigne's essays, you should be aware that the edition priced at $0.89 is NOT the excellent recent edition by M.A. Screech, but the Mobi transcription of the Charles Cotton edition of 1580 -- an interesting medieval version, but hardly equivalent to Screech's Penguin Classics translation. To purchase the Screech edition, be sure to order the "Kindle edition, September 7, 1993" for $18.99. The Screech edition is worth the price!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our Humanity Is Timeless, October 7, 2002
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
When reading Montaigne's essays, I had to continually pinch myself out of the notion that I was reading the innermost secrets of a thoroughly modern human being. Far from the reaches of cell phones, televisions, automobiles, miracle drugs, 7-11 stores and the internet, Michel De Montaigne (1533-1592) via his essays, at once conveys the essence of the universal human condition, and imparts to us a sense of relief and liberation; that our life's journey, beneath all the trappings of the times, share their essential qualities: the challenges, triumphs, tragedies, passions, ironies and humor. With remarkable wit, Montaigne draws characters out of the history books, particularly the classics, and demonstrates to us that our human foibles date not just to HIS own times, but to the dawn of humanity and civilization itself. I read the Penguin Classics edition of the essays, translated by Dr. M. A. Screech, and must say that it is among the best translations of any book I have ever read. Dr. Screech employs an entertaining, colorful and evocative vocabulary which succeeds both in clarity of communication as well as painting vivid and rich pictures for our mind's eye to feast upon. Perhaps Montaigne's most charming quality is his self-effacing and modest demeanor. Never tooting his own horn, except perhaps to lay bare his bad memory or some other perceived fault, the following is one example of thousands which reflects his humor and humility. Wishing to deliver a critique of great intellectual and rhetorical importance, Montaigne instead settles for: "I would say of them the same as Cicero (if I could talk as well as he could.)"
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 26 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays (Penguin Classics)
Michel de Montaigne - The Complete Essays (Penguin Classics) by M.E. De Montaigne (Paperback - September 7, 1993)
$26.00 $19.30
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.