THE wonders of walking was the theme of a talk by Frederic Gros at the Arts Centre yesterday lunchtime as part of the Swindon Festival of Literature.
It was the first time that the French author of books on psychiatry, law and war had visited Swin-don, and despite his difficulties with the language, he delivered a complex discussion on the importance of walking for philosophical thought.
He said: “I know this festival is really a good one and it’s so fantastic for me to come here.
“I was looking forward to doing it but I was also nervous.”
The professor of philosophy from the University of Paris has recently released his latest book, A Philosophy Of Walking, and spent 45 minutes talking about how walking is more than just a leisurely or sporting pursuit.
Many of the world’s greatest thinkers, including Nietzsche, Rousseau, Kant and Rimbaud were all keen walkers, and often used day-long walks as a rest from their work.
Frederic said: “Walking does not make you smarter, but it gives you the space to develop your ideas.
“When I talk about philosophy of walking, many people are surprised. People think that philosophy is about sitting inside, surrounded by books, stooped over a desk.
“But some philosophers like Nietzsche, Foucault, Rousseau, used walking as a rest from that work. They spend the day, the whole day, out walking for a long time, and every now and then stop to jot down just a few ideas.
“Then they develop these ideas later that evening when they get home.”
Frederic drew on his own experiences as a hiker to develop his latest work.
He said: “Walking is not a sport. By walking we escape the idea itself of identity, the desire to be someone, to have a name and a history.
“Walking gives you the freedom to be nobody, which is why I encourage people to walk in small groups or alone.
“You have to let the body find its own natural rhythm, and that way you do not tire so easily.
“The freedom experienced when walking is about not being anyone because the body that walks has no history. It just has an eternal current of life.”
Following his talk, Frederic took questions from the audience with Spanish and French linguists stepping in to translate where necessary.
People asked whether there was a difference to the way Europeans walked to the way others around the world walked, and whether there was a benefit to walking along ancient trails like the Ridgeway.
He said: “Europeans walk with more nostalgia than the Americans.
“Walking along the ancient trails is important. The memories of all those who went before speak to us and make it a more meaningful experience.”
There’s a busy day ahead
TOMORROW marks the penultimate day of the 21st Swindon Festival of Literature with plenty left in store for people to enjoy.
From 12.30pm at the Arts centre Radio 4 broadcaster Ann Karpf will deliver a talk on ageing, what people think about ageing, about growing up gracefully and the different views around ageing. Tickets cost £7 for adults and £6 for concessions.
During the evening Swindon storyteller Cat Weatherill will lead visitors on tour of the Museum and Art Gallery from 7pm to 9pm. People will have a chance to explore the museum by torchlight and enjoy an evening of spookiness. Suitable for children over eight.
Tickets cost £5 and include hot chocolate and cookies.
Meanwhile Rosa Matheson will lead a talk from 7.30pm in the Central Library in Regent Circus about the grisly side of the railway and its dangers over the years.
Tickets cost £2.50 for adults and £1.50 for concessions.
For more information about what’s on, or to book tickets, visit www.swindonfestivalofliterature.co.uk.