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The Complete Works (Everyman's Library) Hardcover – April 29, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


“A faithful translation is rare; a translation which preserves intact the original text is very rare; a perfect translation of Montaigne appears impossible. Yet Donald Frame has realized this feat. One does not seem to be reading a translation, so smooth and easy is the style; at each moment, one seems to be listening to Montaigne himself–the freshness of his ideas, the unexpected choice of words. Frame has kept everything.” –New York Times Book Review

From the Inside Flap

Humanist, skeptic, acute observer of himself and others, Michel de Montaigne (1533?92) was the first to use the term ?essay? to refer to the form he pioneered and he has remained one of its most famous practitioners. He reflected on the great themes of existence in his masterly and engaging writings, his subjects ranging from proper conversation and good reading, to the raising of children and the endurance of pain, from solitude, destiny, time and custom, to truth, consciousness, and death. Having stood the test of time, his essays continue to influence writers nearly five hundred years later.

Also included in this complete edition of his works are Montaigne?s letters and travel journal, fascinating records of the experiences and contemplations that would shape and infuse his essays. Montaigne speaks to us always in a personal voice in which his virtues of tolerance, moderation, and understanding are dazzlingly manifest.

Donald M. Frame?s masterful translation is widely acknowledged to be the classic English version.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1392 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman's Library; 1st edition (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400040213
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400040216
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 2.4 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

161 of 162 people found the following review helpful By drollere on June 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
i'll leave the other reviews to describe the substance of montaigne's book and his unique place in literature -- a favorite read of shakespeare and emerson -- and focus instead on the merits of this edition. this is the single best volume to own if you want to encounter the skeptical and humanist montaigne in english.

i am a fluent reader in the middle french of montaigne's text and own the "old" bibliothèque de la pléiade edition of his complete works. i'll say categorically that donald frame's translation is superior both to the older version by charles cotton and william hazlitt (pleasing for its antiquarian savor, but a hard slog for the average reader) and the recent versions by j.m. cohen and m.a. screech (both in paperback from penguin books). frame is much more accurate than all the others at reproducing montaigne's virile, brusque and improvisatory sentence structures, and best captures his lively and pregnant contrasts in the choice of vulgar, colloquial, informal, formal and ironically fussy expressions.

all translations (and, in fact, almost all french editions) modernize the text in various ways. translations break up montaigne's longer paragraphs, and use periods to separate the sentences strung together with semicolons, but frame is the least drastic with these and other "modernizing" changes, and best conveys the subtle changes in tempo that are characteristic of montaigne's style.

every edition of a "classical" text depends in part on a critical apparatus to clarify the historical period and the author's references to other works.
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121 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Cowboy Bill VINE VOICE on October 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Donald Frame's translations of Montaigne's essays have long been considered one of the two finest contemporary translations available, M.A. Screech's excellent version being the other.
The essays speak for themselves, or at least should. Their popularity is well known and well deserved, and there are a number of fine essay collections available. What's great about this edition is that included with the classic essays are a few extant letters and Montaigne's travel journals, which were lost until almost two hundred years after his death. These additional pieces are not going to rival the essays in popularity -- the letters are few and formal, for instance -- but if you enjoy the mind of Montaigne you'll enjoy these extra inclusions.
Between June of 1580 and December of 1581, Montaigne -- with four other nobles and a variety of servants -- traveled through France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy before returning to Bordeaux. In the journals you'll find more evidence of the author's deeply interested view of the world around him, set out in that seemingly (and charmingly) haphazard, humane style found in spades in the essays.
In one entry, for instance, you'll find him retelling (with a straight face?) a local story he has heard of a young girl who jumped up and down so strenuously during play that she turned into a boy (Montaigne claims that at least a few locals back up this tale); in other entries you'll find him more down to earth, describing, for instance, the little stoves in the homes of Germany, or the tiles that lined some of the homes in what is now Switzerland, or the murals on the walls of Jeanne D'Arc's father's home.
By 1581, when Montaigne visited Rome, the treasures of the Vatican had become a mandatory stop on any well-informed traveller's itinerary.
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Chad Mannlein on August 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The late Donald Frame's translation is, as Harold Bloom credits, superb. Add to it the quality and aesthetics of the Everyman's series and this is an unbeatable edition of Montaigne's works. I plan to buy several copies of this edition as gifts.
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Guttersnipe Das on February 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Six months ago, I got into the habit of losing my mind. No day passed without some evidence of madness: depression, compulsion, mania, panic. Nothing helped--least of all the gray city where I live. One morning while reading this book, I felt my mind click back into place and I knew I would be all right. Since then, the Essays have been, for me, a touchstone of sanity. There is something about their boundaryless curiosity, their open admission of human frailty and mess, that pulls me back every time. It's a book of ideas that never forgets about blood, sweat and semen. Every day I sit with it there is some useful treasure. Today I was grateful to be reminded, "It is not victory if it does not end the war."

Or how about: "No quality embraces us purely and universally. If it did not seem crazy to talk to oneself, there is not a day I would not be heard growling at myself, 'Confounded fool!' And yet I do not intend for that to be my definition."

I distrust Montaigne's opinions on women and God--but to be right about mankind and life on Earth is a lot. As heavy as it is, this big book is always in my bag. Spend some time with it--it will help you stay sane.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Ernest Boehm on May 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Firstly Frames Tranlation is the one to buy. This book includes the travel journals and the essay in complete form by a great transaltor who is also thee great scholar on M. Montaigne.

What a wonderful book, It is by far in all the books I have read the best by far without measure. I held Shakespeare as the gold standard until I read the Essays. Then I found a richness of ideas and a elegance of language that is beyond comparison.

The Essays are intersting because of the topics but also because Montaigne is talking directly to you. He is a man who would rather speak to you and converse than write to you. Luckly this man did write for us. The essays often are relevant to this day. They give a great deal of history of philosphy and history of France and the world. But mostly they give us an intimate history of one man.

This is the one book for the desert island. It is over a thousand pages but will be read many times by myself. The Essays vary from a page and half to about 200 pages. They cover so many topics and are so full of digressions I recommend that you just dive in. As Montaigne aged his essays grew in complexty and length.

He is a friend that I will never lay eyes on. I usally hate onsided conversations but with Montaigne I am glad I got to hear him speak from the page.
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