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A Philosophy of Walking

“A passionate affirmation of the simple life, and joy in simple things. And it's beautifully written: clear, simple, precise.” – Observer
It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth.
          — Nietzsche

By walking, you escape from the very idea of identity, the temptation to be someone, to have a name and a history ... The freedom in walking lies in not being anyone; for the walking body has no history, it is just an eddy in the stream of immemorial life.

In A Philosophy of Walking, a bestseller in France, leading thinker Frédéric Gros charts the many different ways we get from A to B—the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, the nature ramble—and reveals what they say about us.

Gros draws attention to other thinkers who also saw walking as something central to their practice. On his travels he ponders Thoreau's eager seclusion in Walden Woods; the reason Rimbaud walked in a fury, while Nerval rambled to cure his melancholy. He shows us how Rousseau walked in order to think, while Nietzsche wandered the mountainside to write. In contrast, Kant marched through his hometown every day, exactly at the same hour, to escape the compulsion of thought.

Brilliant and erudite, A Philosophy of Walking is an entertaining and insightful manifesto for putting one foot in front of the other.

Reviews

  • “A passionate affirmation of the simple life, and joy in simple things. And it's beautifully written: clear, simple, precise.”
  • “Resolving to take more walks in the new year might sound like promising to take more naps – choosing idleness over work. But a lot of clever people don’t see it that way [...] Frédéric Gros asks why so many of our most productive writers and philosophers – Rousseau, Kant, Rimbaud, Robert Louis Stevenson, Nietzsche, Jack Kerouac – have also been indefatigable walkers.”
  • “This short, simple and profound book... will be read and re-read.”
  • “Poignant life-stories ... are interspersed with the author's own meditations on walking... In the way a landscape is gradually absorbed by the long-distance rambler they steadily build into an insistent exhortation: get up, get out and walk!”
  • “Life-affirming stuff.”
  • “Impressive.”
  • “An admirable little book which will delight even the most sedentary.”
  • “An unclassifiable book in which ideas are illuminated by the bright light of the morning.”
  • “Philosopher Gros ponders walking, that most mundane mode of transportation or exercise, elevating it to its rightful place in inspiring creativity, evoking freedom, and quieting a troubled soul.”
  • “This elegant book inspires consideration of an oft-overlooked subject.”

Blog

  • Foucault's legacy: an interview with Frédéric Gros

    Frédéric Gros is the editor of Michel Foucault's lectures at the Collège de France and the author of Michel Foucault (1996) and Foucault et la folie (1997). Having taught in prison for many years, he devoted a book to the philosophical fundaments of the right to punish (Et ce sera justice, 2001), as well as other texts such as States of Violence: An essay on the end of war (2010) and Le Principe sécurité (2012). Nicolas Truong from Le Monde recently interviewed Gros about the legacy of Michel Foucault.

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  • Verso Beach Reads



    Not sure which radical books to bring with you to the beach this summer? We've come up with an eclectic mix of surrealist fiction, anti-heroic memoir, dazzling investigative reporting, and, as always, revolutionary reads for your time in the sun. Like John Grisham, but not actually bad for your soul, they'll keep you engrossed, entertained, and enlightened til the fall.

    Plus, all books on this list will be 50% off on our website for this week (June 23-30), with free shipping, as usual, and free ebook where available (but no e-readers in the pool plz).

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  • "When you walk all is possible. Your future is as open as the sky in front of you."—Frédéric Gros interviewed in the Observer



    An entertaining and insightful manifesto for putting one foot in front of the other, A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros has been receiving wide-reaching and admiring coverage. 

    In an extensive interview with Carole Cadwalladr in the ObserverGros talks of his philosophy and his conception of walking as a form of "life scoured bare"; as a way of "experiencing the real".

    Gros explains how he first noticed how many great philosophers were also great walkers. "That is, it was not just that walking was a distraction from their work. It was that walking was really their element. It was the condition of their work."

    The piece calls A Philosophy of Walking "a passionate affirmation of the simple life, and joy in simple things. And it's beautifully written: clear, simple, precise; the opposite of most academic writing."

    Visit the Observer to read the interview in full. 

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