Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition

  • by Robert Pogue Harrison
  • Narrated by Drew Birdseye
  • 5 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Humans have long turned to gardens—both real and imaginary—for sanctuary from the frenzy and tumult that surrounds them. Those gardens may be as far away from everyday reality as Gilgamesh’s garden of the gods or as near as our own backyard, but in their very conception and the marks they bear of human care and cultivation, gardens stand as restorative, nourishing, necessary havens.
With Gardens, Robert Pogue Harrison graces readers with a thoughtful, wide-ranging examination of the many ways gardens evoke the human condition. Moving from from the gardens of ancient philosophers to the gardens of homeless people in contemporary New York, he shows how, again and again, the garden has served as a check against the destruction and losses of history.
The ancients, explains Harrison, viewed gardens as both a model and a location for the laborious self-cultivation and self-improvement that are essential to serenity and enlightenment, an association that has continued throughout the ages.
The Bible and Qur’an; Plato’s Academy and Epicurus’s Garden School; Zen rock and Islamic carpet gardens; Boccaccio, Rihaku, Capek, Cao Xueqin, Italo Calvino, Ariosto, Michel Tournier, and Hannah Arendt—all come into play as this work explores the ways in which the concept and reality of the garden has informed human thinking about mortality, order, and power.
Alive with the echoes and arguments of Western thought, Gardens is a fitting continuation of the intellectual journeys of Harrison’s earlier classics, Forests and The Dominion of the Dead. Voltaire famously urged us to cultivate our gardens; with this compelling volume, Robert Pogue Harrison reminds us of the nature of that responsibility—and its enduring importance to humanity.


What the Critics Say

"Harrison's latest will give gardeners and nature-lovers a fascinating historical tour and a deeper appreciation for the craft: 'Neither consumption nor productivity fulfills. Only caretaking does.'" (Publishers Weekly)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Another excellent book by Robert Harrison

Harrison's vision is always to connect how we live with insights from civilization's literary heritage. And he does a breathtaking job. His language is erudite but accessible and often poetic. The only nit I have with this audio book is the reader sounds a bit too much like a Top-40 radio announcer, and while his voice is good it's not well matched to the material.
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- Craig Carlson

Book Details

  • Release Date: 03-01-2010
  • Publisher: Caravan