Montaigne presents antiquity as available only as a simulacrum; hence he renders the modern selfe [sic] that has propped itself up on antiquity as sheer tenuousness. Antiquity is an other to modernity that the latter both internalizes and externalizes; modernity and antiquity thereby each provide a perspective that can’t rigorously be called either relativist or absolutist. And just as Montaigne presents antiquity as available to cognition only as a simulacrum, the beginning of knowledge of the radically other cultures of the Americas must occur in the simulacrum of these cultures that he offers in “Des cannibales” and “Des coches.” I don’t disagree with the interpretations of the many intelligent people who have seen an assimilation of the Amerindians to the ancients. I would merely add that this assimilation is also a dissimilation, since antiquity itself is made other in the Essais, and that this double movement by no means constitutes an exclusion or effacement. For Montaigne, antiquity presents alterity through its unfathomable distance in time and space from the modern Western selfe. […] [T]he essays on American offer a meditation on geological and historical time, on the possibilities of apprehending alterity, and on the affirmative failure of the selfe to ever reach integral unity. The allegorical dimensions that critics have signaled in “Des cannibales” are essential to these projects; allegory is precisely the discursive strategy by which the other may speak in a language from which it is absent, by which the dominant languages may hence become other. But […] the allegory functions in a mixed fashion, also involving a consideration of its literally addressed topics. Montaigne’s allegorization doesn’t recognize a hierarchy between literal and figural meanings.

Hassan Melehy, The Poetics of Literary Transfer in Early Modern France and England