Local Hero

HouseofLaBoetie

Today, on Bastille Day, we wandered the streets of Sarlat, a Périgord village of remarkably well-preserved medieval and Renaissance architecture in the beautiful golden limestone of the region. We, and our fellow tourists, were inappropriately garbed for these picturesque balconies, flowery courtyards, and half-timbered façades. Really, only those in period costume ought to be allowed entrance.

Here I sketched the birthplace and childhood home of Étienne de la Boétie (1530-1563), philosopher, poet, government official in the reign of Charles IX, proponent of religious toleration in an era of bitter religious conflict, BFF of Montaigne, and, most famously, author of Discourse on Voluntary Servitude, in which he—centuries ahead of the French and American revolutions—questions and protests the inclination of human beings to acquiesce in their own oppression by tyrants.

Had he not succumbed to an outbreak of dysentery at the age of 32, what might he have gone on to write? His house (which, when la Boétie was born there, had just been completed five years earlier) seems an appropriate post for this national festival.

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