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Les Rêveries du Promeneur solitaire by…
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Les Rêveries du Promeneur solitaire (original 1782; edition 2011)

by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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1,0981311,158 (3.44)33
Member:Mariamestre
Title:Les Rêveries du Promeneur solitaire
Authors:Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Info:Adegi Graphics LLC (2011), Edition: Elibron Classics series, Paperback
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Reveries of the Solitary Walker by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1782)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Hyperbole*, thy name is Rousseau. In the last work by Jean-Jacques Rousseau he created a memoir like none of his other works. Autobiographical in style, it differs from the Confessions, the Dialogues, and several letters. It has no goal nor any chronological order; indeed, the ten "walks" into which it is divided provide a record of his inner feelings, a sort of barometer of his "soul".

The theme of the walks, if one exists, seems to center on Rousseau's alleged solitude - an isolation from society that is not deserved by such a great man. He spends his days contemplating himself as evidenced by this comment near the end of the First Walk: "But I, detached from them and from everything, what am I?".
His investigation of himself, as the walks continue, appears to be sentimental - one that focuses on feeling rather than ideas (perhaps his taste for ideas had declined since the days of his early essays and great Social Contract). He ponders the nature of happiness in the Fifth Walk, however does not identify his own personal happiness with contemplation (as Aristotle or other classical thinkers might). In fact, he considers thinking a chore for him in the Seventh Walk; it is a task he used to perform fro the sake of others so that he could explain the world to them and show them how to live in it correctly (perhaps they could not hear him or were just not listening).

Rousseau's high appreciation of himself is evident from the opening sentence of the First Walk when he sets himself apart from humankind with these words: "I am now alone on earth, no longer having any brother, neighbor, friend, or society other than myself." He goes on to portray himself as the "most sociable and the most loving of humans". Overall the investigation of self in which he is engaged is so clearly and consistently directed at Rousseau's own enlightenment that the problem of why he is in this unusual condition does not arise. The final and tenth walk occurs on on Palm Sunday in 1778. He ends his reveries with a short chapter bemoaning the short period of happiness he had with a woman decades before; unsure of himself or his feelings he commits to reforming so as to be able to love. It seems that will be a losing battle.

* language that describes something as better or worse than it really is. ( )
1 vote jwhenderson | Oct 15, 2016 |
I actually enjoyed Jean-Jacques Rousseau's "Reveries of the Solitary Walker" much more than I expected to. I found Rousseau's 10 essays interesting and occasionally unintentionally amusing in a sad sort of way.

Rousseau would have been insane in this Internet age where every comment about a person's work, behavior or looks can be seen, dissected and analyzed. Rousseau, writing in the late 1700's in France was utterly paranoid and convinced that there were haters out there at every turn.

Still, I found his essays thoughtful and very easily translatable to today's world. His anecdotes were interesting enough that I'll likely put his more formidable "Confessions" on my reading list. ( )
  amerynth | Mar 24, 2015 |
Well, this sounded really good from the description: slightly crazy Rousseau at the end of his life, walking, thinking, bitterness, misanthropy, etc.

However, in practice, it was like listening to that drunk guy at the bar telling you how everybody is against him, and how he really deserves better, and how he's really a great guy and that he's not really mad at these people (he calls them his 'persecuters')... no, in fact he's found peace. But he emphasizes those last points a little too pointedly, so that you start to think he doesn't really believe it. Like he's just saying it to convince himself that it's true. Because, really, he's not over the fact that certain people don't like him. And you end up not caring if he's really a good guy or not, you just want him to stop talking so you can enjoy your beer.

While there are some good ideas and thoughts in here, none of them really blew me away, they all seemed like stuff I would write down in my own diary, only to look back on them and feel a slight twinge of shame. And there's not the meandering quality I would associate normally with a walking narrative. These are ten well-formed essays, with forceful agendas. He didn't stop to tell you about his walk, or about something he observed at the corner of Rue Such-and-such and Avenue de So-and-So. No, none of that, it's all Rousseau all the time. He is so much in his own mind that I felt like I was reading a case-study in how not to drive yourself crazy. I see these tendencies in myself sometimes and I hope I don't ever become like him. Reduced to my own self, it is true that I feed on my own substance.And while the writing is not bad, he repeats his points to the point of tedium, and takes so long in saying it, that I fell asleep reading a few of them.

PS - the Introduction, written by the translator Peter France, is pretty good though, and gives a good context of how these writings fit into Rousseau's larger body of work. I do want to read more of Rousseau, he was probably a great thinker before he turned sour and inward. ( )
1 vote JimmyChanga | Sep 11, 2013 |
Some of the previous reviews discard it as boring and self-obsessed. I, however, enjoyed it (in French) as a document of 18th century philosophical preoccupations, as a hymn to nature and as a poetic view of life. ( )
1 vote Miguelnunonave | Aug 6, 2013 |
Sad ending to a life obsessed too much with what others thought of him, or perhaps his own obsession with fame and being loved. Hard to say. I wish he would have walked quietly off into the sunset for five years and then died. It would have said more than this work did. ( )
  MSarki | Aug 3, 2013 |
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Jean-Jacques Rousseauprimary authorall editionscalculated
Fletcher, John GouldTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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So now I am alone in the world, with no brother, neighbour or friedn, nor anu company left me but my own.
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"De quoi jouit-on dans une pareille situation? De rien d'extérieur à soi, de rien sinon de soi-même et de sa propre existence comme Dieu".

"Il n'y faut ni un repos absolu ni trop d'agitation, mais un mouvement uniforme et modéré qui n'ait ni secousses ni intervalles. Sans mouvement la vie n'est qu'une léthargie".
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DO NOT COMBINE with "Meditations of a Solitary Walker." This version is complete; the latter is an abridgement. If you combine the two by mistake, then kindly do the rest of us a favour and SEPARATE THEM AGAIN.
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Book description
The struggle between Rousseau's yearning for solitude and his need for society is the central theme of the Reveries.

In the two years before his death in 1778, Jean-Jacques Rousseau composed the ten meditations of Reveries of the Solitary Walker. Combining philisophical argument with amusing anecdotes and lyrical descriptive passages, they record the great French writer's sense of isolation and alienation from a world which he felt had rejected his work. As he wanders around Paris, gazing at plants and day-dreaming, Rousseau looks back over his life in order to justify his actions and to elaborate on his ideal of a well-structured society fit for the noble and solitary natural man. - from the back cover of the book
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"Rousseau's last great work, the product of his final years of exile from the society that condemned his political and religious views"--Cover.

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