"The demon of speed is often associated with forgetting, with avoidance...and slowness with memory and confronting," observes Milan Kundera in his novel Slowness.
With that purpose in mind - a search for slowness and tranquility - Andy Merrifield sets out on a journey of the soul with a friend's donkey, Gribouille, to walk amid the ruins and spectacular vistas of southern France's Haute-Auvergne. As Merrifield contemplates literature, science, truth, and beauty amid the French countryside, Gribouille surprises him with his subtle wisdom, reminding him time and again that enlightenment is all around us if we but seek it.
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I love donkeys, I love travelogues, I love books about unusual journeys taken on foot. So you'd think I was the perfect audience for this book. But it didn't really succeed. There are some interesting facts about donkeys provided, although the facts come with a hefty side of philosophizing about their natures. Or observations like "there is something tremendously democratic about a donkeys tail" and then some nonsense about Andrew Jackson. As a travelogue it is oddly non-specific. He is in France, specifically Auvergne, but we don't get a lot of detail about where exactly he is and how long he is gone for. I mean, people write books all the time about leaving the city to get away from the noise and the frenetic pace. The author is leaving behind NYC and London but is his journey with donkey a months' long pilgrimage, a single month's long or just a few days? If the reader were to find herself inspired by the journey and want to imitate it, how would she do this? What exactly is their route? Here I remember reading a book about a man who does the Camino de Santiago with a donkey. Maybe I should go back to that book? Anyway, donkeys in and of themselves are more awesome than this book.