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I could begin the praise of my voyage by saying that it cost me nothing. This point merits some attention. It will, at first, be extolled and celebrated by people of middling circumstances; yet there is another class of people with whom it is even more certain to enjoy great success, for the same reason, that it costs nothing. And who would these people be? Need you even ask? Why, the rich, of course. And in what respect would this new manner of travel not also be suitable for the infirm? They need not fear the inclemency of the elements or the seasons. As for the faint of heart, they will be safe from bandits, and need not fear encountering any precipices or holes in the road. Thousands of people who, before me, had never dared to travel—and others who had been unable, and still others who had never dreamed of it—will now, after my example, undertake to do so. Would even the most indolent of creatures hesitate to set out with me in search of pleasures that will cost him neither effort nor money? Buck up, then. We’re on our way.

Xavier de Maistre, Voyage Around My Room

Amusing as this book is in its own right, Xavier de Maistre--brother of the great reactionary writer Joseph--has a lot to answer for, seeing as how you can trace a straight line of influence from here to Huysmans and Proust and a host of others. Confined to his quarters for forty-two days for duelling--in Piedmont in 1790--he combated his boredom by writing a travelogue set entirely in his room. Whether describing his couch or his beloved dog, Rosine, he intentionally does so in the same detail that a more typical travel writer would bring to describing foreign architecture or flora and fauna.

There can't help but be something cynical/sarcastic in all those. However, he really does do a service in teaching us that the familiar objects around us can be no less fascinating and worthy of study in their own way than those found in more exotic locations--which, after all, must be equally familiar to the locals.

He wisely keeps his treatise short--it is something of a one trick pony. But he did pen a sequel, A Nocturnal Expedition around my Room. And it is just as much fun, chatty and droll, but with that underlying serious message. Of course, in the hands of others, this notion of close observation would not wear as well. Perhaps we might describe the difference thus, where de Maistre sought to make his observations of his closed quarters universal and objective, folks like Proust instead chose to burrow into themselves and became ever more subjective.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Xavier de Maistre Links:

    -AUTHOR PAGE: Xavier de Maistre (Hesperus Press)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Xavier de Maistre
    -BIO: Xavier de Maistre (Catholic Encyclopedia)
    -ETEXT: A Journey Around My Room by Xavier de Maistre (Google Books)
    -EXCERPT: Small World : Xavier de Maistre takes a staycation. (Xavier de Maistre, Lapham's Quarterly)
    -EXCERPT: Xavier de Maistre : Parenthetical Digression (Translated from the French by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert)
    -ESSAY: Demaistre’s Voyage Autour de ma Chambre (Reuel K. Wilson, 1973, The Literary Travelogue)
    -ESSAY: Xavier de Maistre and Angelology (David McCallum, 7/16/12)
    -ESSAY: Xavier de Maistre (Illustrated Journal of Art)
    -REVIEW: of A Journey Around My Room by Xavier de Maistre (Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of Journey (Danny Heitman, WSJ)
    -REVIEW: of Journey Around My Room (Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of Journey Around my Room (Michael Dirda, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Journey Around My Room (Peter Toohey, WSJ)
    -REVIEW: of Journey Around My Room (Tracy Seeley)
    -REVIEW: of Journey (Thoughts in Fits and Starts)
    -REVIEW: of Nocturnal Expedition around my Room by Xavier de Maistre (The Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Leper of the City of Aosta by Xavier de Maistre (Complete Review) PLAY:
    -PLAY REVIEW: A Journey Around My Room (Marlene Sim, Wesleyan Argus)

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