In Périgord, in the footsteps of La Boétie

An intimate of Montaigne, Etienne de La Boétie was born near the Pech Charmant campsite in the Périgord region, in the medieval town of Sarlat. Why not follow in the footsteps of this man from Périgord, who remains a leading figure in French classical literature?

A child of Sarlat
It was in the heart of the medieval town, opposite Saint-Sacerdos cathedral, that the writer was born on 1 November 1530, where his father held the post of lieutenant to the “king’s seneschal” in Périgord, i.e. the right-hand man to exercise administrative, financial and legal powers on behalf of the sovereign.

From the Pech Charmant, it’s just a twenty-minute drive to the old Renaissance house that has remained intact.

Humanist, poet and writer
Raised in a family of magistrates, the young man naturally became a lawyer. From this erudite, middle-class background, he inherited a taste for literature and an unfailing curiosity. Fascinated by Antiquity, like the young bourgeois of his time, he very soon composed verses in Latin, Greek and French, before translating Virgil or Plutarch…

No sooner had he obtained his law degree than, at the age of just twenty-three, he wrote the work that would make him famous: Discourse on Voluntary Servitude. The manuscript was not published until 1576. However, it was this work, which was the talk of the town before it was published, that won him the friendship of Michel de Montaigne.


A dazzling career
A legal prodigy, La Boétie was one of the peace negotiators during the terrible Wars of Religion, which took place in his native region. The Périgord, with its string of castles and fortresses, which you can discover just a few minutes from the Pech Charmant campsite, was the scene of bitter fighting between Catholics and Protestants. But La Boétie’s talent did not last long. In 1563, aged just 33, he died of tuberculosis. The humanist writer passed into posterity through the pen of his friend Montaigne from Bordeaux, who witnessed his agony. Montaigne paid him a posthumous tribute fifteen years later, in his famous Essais. When asked why he loved him, he famously said: “Because it was him, because it was me”.

3 October 2023

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