Saturday, 23 September 2017

A Journey Round My Room by Xavier de Maistre

A Journey Round My Room by Xavier de Maistre
First published in French as Voyage autour de ma chambre in Russia by Joseph de Maistre in 1794. English language translation by Henry Attwell published in the UK by Hurd And Houghton in 1871.

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A Journey Round My Room is a parody set in the tradition of the grand travel narrative. It is an autobiographical account of how a young official, imprisoned in his room for six weeks, looks at the furniture, engravings, etc., as if they were scenes from a voyage in a strange land. de Maistre praises this voyage because it does not cost anything, for this reason it is strongly recommended to the poor, the infirm, and the lazy. His room is a long square, and the perimeter is thirty-six paces. "When I travel through my room," he writes, "I rarely follow a straight line: I go from the table towards a picture hanging in a corner; from there, I set out obliquely towards the door; but even though, when I begin, it really is my intention to go there, if I happen to meet my armchair en route, I don’t think twice about it, and settle down in it without further ado." Later, proceeding North, he encounters his bed, and in this way he lightheartedly continues his "Voyage". This work is remarkable for its play with the reader's imagination, along the lines of Laurence Sterne, whom Xavier admired.

I learned about A Journey Round My Room by reading Traveling In Place by Bernd Stiegler (my review here). I read that book a couple of years ago, not getting around to downloading its predecessor until recently. Unfortunately I was quite disappointed!

De Maistre's book is a series of short self-indulgent essays tediously strung together by the Journey concept. Some are humorous and I can imagine that, for people who actually knew de Maistre, his chattering might have been amusing, but overall I found this book dull and I couldn't see why it has endured so long. I am not sure I will go on to read the sequel.

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Books by Xavier de Maistre / Biography and memoir / Books from France

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