Proustian Solutions

If you’re anything like me (i.e. deeply insane), you’ve probably tried to read Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu in its entirety a dozen times or more.  Because honestly:  who doesn’t long to spend months painstakingly reading a seven-volume work of French modernist literature for no reason other than having the satisfaction of knowing you’ve spent months reading a seven-volume work of French modernist literature?  I always make it most of the way through the first volume, and then something manages to get me away from it (usually, that part of my brain molded by the speed of modern society that has rendered my attention span mournfully impotent).  Regardless, I do still love Proust’s writing, and I find myself continually drawn to him, even if I’ve yet to finish his most important work.  As a result, when I stumbled upon Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life sitting patiently on a bookstore shelf, I thought to myself, “Of course Proust can change my life!” and purchased the book immediately.

Basically, the book is part Proust biography, part advocacy of self-betterment based on the experiences of Proust himself and various characters throughout his works.  The latter is not so much a straightforward claim of “if you do this, then your life will be better,” but more of an advocacy of living to the fullest using Proust as an inspiration and a vehicle for discovery.  Alain de Botton covers everything:  properly expressing emotion, being a good friend, suffering in the most efficient way, good posture, etc.

The book is peppered with unusual facts about Proust himself coupled with amusing quotes and anecdotes from his life, often tragic (notably his “disposition toward helplessness” as exacerbated by his mother, who refused to accept that he was no longer a child; or, his inability to find meaningful love with the exception of one man, who shortly thereafter met his demise in a plane crash).  Proust’s life is enthralling and the complexity of his mind is tremendous-even his personal letters and journal entries were unfathomably beautiful.

How Proust Can Change Your Life is definitely more of an amusing look into the life of Marcel Proust than an espousal for a new way of living.  Still, there is a definite invitation to have a great life, full of beauty, love and suffering, which is something everyone (ideally) wants.

And now, I’ll abruptly end with one of my favorite Proust quotes that really has nothing to do with the rest of this post:

Women who are to some extent resistant, whom one cannot possess at once, whom one does not even know at first whether one will ever possess, are the only interesting ones.

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  1. Kerri Shadid
    20/10/2009 at 4:51 pm Permalink

    I am a huge fan of Alain de Botton! Architecture of Happiness is my personal favorite, I always recommend it. Status Anxiety is also excellent.

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