Everything is clearly stated from the beginning of the first preface to Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem. In it Chateaubriand denies having made the journey ‘to write about it’, but admits that he used it to look for ‘images’ for Les Martyrs. He has no scientific pretensions: ‘I make no attempt to follow the footsteps of people like Chardin, Tavernier, Mungo Park, Humboldt . . .’1. So that finally this work, for which no purpose is admitted, answers a contradictory desire to speak of nothing but its author without saying a single thing about him to anyone:
For the rest, it is the man, much more than the author, who will be seen throughout; I speak eternally about myself, and did so in all confidence, since I had no intention of publishing my Memoirs.2
Marc Augé Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity translated by John Howe (Verso, 1995).
Chateaubriand’s conception of writing about himself about traveling (quoted here in Marc Augé’s Non-Places), sounds very like an average blogger’s rationale (by which I mean one who writes with no purpose other than to express themselves).
But I think I’m peddling myths here. There is really no such thing as an average blogger (in this sense), there is always a purpose involved. And similarly Chateaubriand is being disingenuous about his writings and travels.
Instead he resorts to assiduous description, makes a show of erudition, quotes whole pages of travellers or poets like Milton or Tasso. What he is doing is being evasive . . .
1 Chateaubriand, Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem (Juillard, 1964 edn), p.19.
2 Ibid., p.20.