Anthropology, History, Literature, Philosophy, Religion, Reviews

“Who knew Camus had something to say about gardens?”

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If you’re living in the northern U.S. it is likely that your garden is presently covered under several inches of snow, but as a recent article in the New York Times demonstrates, through the long winter months many gardeners never cease thinking about them. Writing for yesterday’s “Sunday Book Review” Dominique Browning offers a list of a few of her favorite gardening books for midwinter reading that includes Robert Pogue Harrison’s new book, Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition. Browning writes:

The year’s most thought-provoking, original and weighty garden book (though the lightest in heft) is Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition, by Robert Pogue Harrison. Here the author of Forests: The Shadow of Civilization and The Dominion of the Dead, a book about cemeteries and burial practices, turns his thoughts to the garden as “sanctuary of repose.” Making a garden fulfills, as Harrison puts it, “a distinctly human need, as opposed to shelter, which is a distinctly animal need.” Burrowing into a more refined issue than what makes a garden, he meditates on why we garden. It’s impossible to summarize the answer, overflowing as his book is with eccentric connections and voracious readings, ranging over centuries and across continents. Part of what makes it exciting is the way Harrison sets up surprise encounters with unexpected writers, who spring up as though self-seeded among the perennials. Who knew Camus had something to say about gardens?…
Reading Harrison’s book is like strolling down a path through a well cultivated, richly sown, light-dappled woodland. There’s no point of arrival, though there may be resting places here and there. Just as in the making of a garden, there’s no end to the wonder; the journey is everything. You don’t have to be a gardener to love this book, but by the end you’ll be asking yourself why on earth you aren’t.

Read the rest of the review on the NYT website.
Also, read an excerpt.