A detailed look at the lives of hermits through time. France looks at hermits from Diogenes, the Desert Fathers, the Ornamental Hermits of the 18th century, and famous solitaries such as Charles de Foucauld and Thomas Merton, through to contemporary hermits such as John Nokes.
The notion of the hermit is a tantalizing one. Ours is an age which seems to be obsessed with relationships: solitude is equated with loneliness and sterility. Freud developed the notion that sexuality naturally demands fulfilment, and frustration leads to deviant behaviour. We now believe that we are born to be social, to interact with others, and to attach ourselves. Hermits stand as a model of another kind of existence, one in which solitude is exalted and leads not to sterility but deeper insight and wisdom. Peter France's book looks at hermits from Diogenes, the Desert Fathers, the Ornamental Hermits of the 18th century, and famous solitaries such as Charles de Foucauld and Thomas Merton, through to contemporary hermits such as John Nokes. France also considers enforced solitude such as sailors alone at sea, and hostages and prisoners. He asks what they represent and why there is so much fascination with the riches of the solitary life.
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