Proust can really change your life
Author: Alain de Botton
A brilliant analysis of life, Proust, all the “petty” things and humanity in a “mock” self-help essay.
There are few things humans are more dedicated to than unhappiness. Had we been placed on earth by a malign creator for the exclusive purpose of suffering, we would have good reason to congratulate ourselves on our enthusiastic response to the task. Reasons to be inconsolable abound: the frailty of our bodies, the fickleness of love, the insincerities of social life, the compromises of friendship, the deadening effects of habit. In the face of such persistent ills, we might naturally expect that no event would be awaited with greater anticipation than the moment of our own extinction. - a rather gloomy way to start a book about changing your life, isn’t it? Well, Proust’s reply comes as a comforting thought, a few lines below: I think that life would suddenly seem wonderful to us if we were threatened to die as you say. Just think of how many projects, travels, love affairs, studies it – our life – hides from us, made invisible by our laziness which, certain of a future, delays them incessantly. A positively rational shift in perspective, for sure!
With ups and downs, multiple perspectives on issues such as friendship, love, social life, literature and books, emotions or suffering, Alain de Botton creates a great essay about all the important things, through Proust’s thoughts, way of living and writing. Written with a fine eye for details and an almost acid sense of humour, How Proust can change you life is a „mock” self-help essay and literary critique at once, that raises a lot of important questions about oneself, indirectly. Whether enjoying the vivid portrait of Proust or challenging the „right” paths in society, as a reader, you get a sense that you need to read between the lines, where the „essence” of Botton’s own philosophy is hidden.
As you discover a lazy, misanthrope, cinic, socially awkward Proust (click if you want to see a Proust impersonated by Ralph Fiennes) and the strong contrast with his own beliefs and writings, you cannot help but start questioning your own manner of existing. It really is a fun reading with deep implications, as the structure of the book and the discourse bring up, slowly, the philosophical perspectives. In other words, Alain de Botton manages, once again, to create a light hearted writing with bitter-sweet messages, that lead you on a philosophical quest if you want to or that you can take as such, if you don’t. Though, with pieces of advice like When Proust urges us to evaluate the world properly, he repeatedly reminds us of the value of modest scenes. or The lesson? To respond to the unexpected and hurtful behavior of others with something more than a wipe of the glasses, to see it as a chance to expand our understanding. , Botton himself urges us to change the way we perceive life.
How Proust can change your life is a philosophical pseudo-self-help book that one cannot stop reading till the end. With a savoury sense of irony and an abundance of things to ponder upon, you will definitely find new ways to look at the most banal things in your life. And if you still need more arguments, watch this compelling explanation that Botton gives.
The vivid humour, the thorough documentation of Proust’s life and literature, the great insghts on the philosophy of „living”
For Alain de Botton afficionados, essay, philosophy and literature (all in one) lovers