- Author: Francesca Cernia Slovin
- Publisher: Xlibris Corporation
- ISBN: 9781469106908
- Category: Fiction
- View: 428
The Last Walk Francesca Cernia Slovin Jean-Jacques Rousseau?s last book, Reveries of a Solitary Walker, was to have had ten walks. The tenth he wrote only three pages before his death. Francesca Cernia Slovin?s The Last Walk essays its completion. Another inveterate walker, Nietzsche, once remarked that ?only ideas had while walking, only ideas that have been digested and expelled, have value.? As he and Rousseau both knew, this idea and practice is perennial: from the pre-Socratics who in effect walked from the peripheries of mainland Greece to plant the roots of fundamental questioning there, through the peripatetic philosophers, until any current moment. Since at least Montaigne, traveling has remained the privileged metaphor of the reflective essay, the critical assaying of one?s contemporary culture from a perspective simultaneously within and outside it. In Maurice Blanchot?s words in L?attente, l?oubli: ?Time and time again, walking and always marking time, another country, other cities, other roads, the same country.? Voltaire remarks that ?Rousseau wrote with fire in his pen.? Echoing eighteenth-century style, The Last Walk is captivating literary and philosophical invention, intertwining the discourses of his critics with those of a quintessential hero walking from the Enlightenment through the immediate pre-Revolutionary period to Romanticism with beguiling ambiguity. Like a flame, Rousseau wavers between memory and delirium, embodying at once the fragility of belief and the power of illusion. Rousseau?s relationship to his milieu and its major global protagonists, from Europe to England and back, is envisioned here as ?paranoid? in the double sense not only of clinical pathology but also its etymology, para-nous?the reasoning madness that is parallel and irreducible to whatever commonly passes as Reason. This luminous historical fiction is based on extensive historical, archival, and geographical research. With keen and critical awareness of the vast secondary literature, vividly recreated?though interior monologue, dialogue, and objectivity?are Rousseau?s emotional and thought processes just prior to death: his relationship to nature, everyday life, intimate friends and lovers, and the leading intellectuals of his day, his enemies imagined and real. Nearly consumed by this complex persecution, Rousseau returns at age sixty-six to Ermenonville, country estate of Marquis de Girardin, a long walk from Jean-Jacques Paris. The Marquis, his sincere admirer, is an incurable Enlightenment opportunist; the Marquise is a severe but sensitive judge and the embodiment of nascent woman?s liberation. Our fourth main protagonist is Th?r?se, Jean-Jacques?s illiterate former housekeeper, washerwoman, lifelong companion, and now wife. As she and the Marquise exchange reflections on Jean Jacques and on contemporary life, The Last Walk, ?in a single language, makes the double speech heard? (Blanchot). Lucidly melancholic, the tireless walker begins the last walk of the Enlightenment, the first walk of Revolution and Romanticism, and now still continuing today. Unlike Odysseus, Rousseau will be dead in two days. Anxious that his illustrious guest has eluded him, the Marquis rides out to fetch Rousseau back to him, also to the Marquise. At their estate, Th?r?se exchanges memories and reflections with her mistress. The Last Walk weaves back and forth between multiply interlocked memories: Th?r?se with the Marquise, the Marquis with himself as he rides alone, and, ultimately, Rousseau?s last reverie, now our own. The slaughter bench of history?the Revolution and the Terror?awaits.