Saturday, January 7, 2012

How Proust can change your life – Alain de Botton

And the New Year gets of to a brilliant start with this most unlikely of books. 'How Proust Can Change Your Life' is a book unlike any I have ever read. I have never read any of Marcel Proust’s work and I doubt if I ever will though I did happen upon a few of his famous quotes. But to read a book called ‘How Proust can change your life’ was an experience I never ever expected.

Alain de Botton uses a fine, easy-to-read-language that is full of energy and wonder, as he talks of Proust’s work ‘In Search of Lost Time’. For a while I wondered if he was making it all up, going by the pictures and the way it was written – the chapters are titled as follows: How to love life today (what if death comes calling today, readjust your priorities), How to read for yourself (knowing yourself through books), How to take your time, How to suffer successfully (being happy with one’s ailments and not forever blaming), How to express your emotions, How to be a good friend, How to open your eyes (to view all with the same wonder, not to look for the mistakes), How to be happy in love and How to put books down. De Botton quotes Proust from many sources and many of his friends and acquaintances as well.

Written in an engaging and even funny manner De Botton’s book analyses many of Proust’s positions on subjects wide ranging as the above. The thoughts are so fine and subtle that I failed to register them in my mind after one reading and require that I read the book again – it can easily be read again. I tried to recount what the book was about to someone and nothing came to mind! The pictures help, apparently that is how de Botton’s books are, illustrated. A second read surely for people like me who are ignorant of the ways of both Proust and De Botton. For those who are wondering whether they should read or not, I'd certainly recommend it. It is a totally different experience in how things can be done, books written and to that extent surely, can change your life.

Marcel Proust (1871-1922), the object of this book was a French novelist, essayist and critic. Son of a doctor, Proust was a sickly child, prone to asthmatic attacks. He was also a closet homosexual who apparently was one of the first in his times to write openly about homosexuality in his works. The Proust questionnaire which is now being administered by the Hindu on many celebrities revives the spirit of Proust in today’s world often to some quirky replies by the thinkers of our times.

Alain De Botton, a Swiss writer, television presenter and entrepreneur, has already written ten bestsellers – one novel (Essays in Love) and nine non-fiction (Consolations of Philosophy, Architecture of Happiness, among others) – a lot for someone who is in his early forties, has a school in London ‘The School of Life’ that approaches education differently, has an architecture project called ‘Living Architecture’ to build innovative houses for the general public and is an honorary member of the Royal Institute of British Architetcs. However he is not an architect by training as I noticed in his profile but has a Masters degree in philosophy and comes from a wealthy family, his father being a banker who has left behind a Trust of some 200 million. I am amazed at De Botton's energy and at the many things he is already doing.

There is an interesting talk of Botton on TED talks, youtube. Check it out.

No comments: