Monday, December 15, 2008

Visiting Florence

In one of his essays in his book about Montaigne, Philippe Desan writes how the library forms for many authors a way to accumulate knowledge and to organize it, while one can stay on the place where one is. It is a guide to the world. But for Montaigne his library is in the end not more than a starting place for all his voyages. Montaigne has travelled a lot. In France, of course, but also in Germany and from there to Italy. His diary of this journey is famous.
For me it is also often the case that my travels start in a library, be it my own library, be it in a university library or now also in the library of the Internet. I use these libraries as a start for the travels in my mind (as the readers of my blogs may already have noticed) or for my physical travels in Europe or sometimes in Japan. For my mental travels, books give me the guidelines that lead my thoughts. For my physical travels, they give me an impression where it might be interesting and where I should go, and how to organize it.When Montaigne travelled, he gave more attention to the people he met than to the landscapes he passed. Although landscapes are important when choosing my destinations and travelling around, I cannot help to look at people, too, and at their relics. I suppose it is my sociological past. And there is also another similarity between Montaigne and me. In his travel diary, Montaigne has written hardly any word about his visits to Florence. It is as if he has seen hardly anything of the beautiful art there, which was there also already in his time. Anyway, it did not impress him enough in order to write about it. I make always a photographic diary of my travels, and I have photos of nearly all bigger and smaller towns that I visited. But in Florence I took no picture at all.

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