Zanna's Reviews > How Proust Can Change Your Life

How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton
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With the gentlest possible mockery, de Botton makes a compelling case for celebrating and learning from an unlikely teacher: Marcel Proust. Here is some of his advice

Live passionately because we might die any time

Look for the familiar in art; be sensitised by it and improve your ability to notice and describe, and thus be at home everywhere; expand understanding of people's emotional depths

Learn from suffering, relish the insight it offers, use it to grow

Be honest about your feelings and attempt to describe them authentically, striving for an original language that reflects the multidimensional and unique nature of them. Thus enlarge you notion of normality and thus expand. Break with cliche, strive to experience the world authentically

Approach the news humanly, look beyond compression of stories. Take time and do justice

Insincerity to friends is to some extent necessary, because there is a gap between the negative thoughts we can endure having and those our friends can endure hearing

Say the unsayable in unsent letters... or novels!

Conversations should be selfless and interested in others; it is haphazard, fleeting and ultimately superficial, so our own selves are better explored in other media

Art helps us to find beauty; it sensitises us; this is why images close to our lives help us to appreciate the world anew.

In Shikasta Doris Lessing's extraterrestrial protagonist describes Proust as a great sociologist and anthropologist, which chimes with de Botton's view. The pressure is on me to actually read Proust, but I just can't bear it, I can't let go of my desperation for writing to go somewhere, with some pace, or at least mesmerise me with eloquence, like Woolf's 'The Waves'.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 4, 2011 – Finished Reading
July 29, 2013 – Shelved
July 29, 2013 – Shelved as: philosophy

Comments Showing 1-12 of 12 (12 new)

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message 1: by Erik F. (new)

Erik F. But Proust's writing IS incredibly mesmerizing and eloquent! His labyrinthine sentences and inventive similes/metaphors are truly dazzling, in addition to his sharp social/behavioral observations. He is definitely worth the time and effort, and not intimidating at all once you really get into it.


Marieke Oh and the wry, sly humor of Proust! I'm only on my first time through the volumes and it will take me two years to do it, but then I'll probably start over. I think there are layers that I can't possibly see the first time. He has kind of taken over my reading life! But I resign myself to it happily. :)


Zanna See! Proust-lovers are helpless evangelists! = )

For me a labyrinthine sentence is almost the opposite of eloquence; perhaps I need another word for the density and economy I require...


message 4: by Erik F. (new)

Erik F. By "labyrinthine" I didn't mean needlessly wordy; he certainly knew how to use words effectively and expertly.


Katie Why is Proust an unlikely teacher?


Zanna Because his life story defies current White Euro-American stereotypes of success - that's the way de Botton paints it - the 'general' reader will ask 'what can I possibly learn from this loser?'


message 7: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala I read this pre goodreads so I have no detailed recollection of it other than a vague memory of finding de Botton quite painful but your review is full of such great points - I agree with all of them - so it's a mystery why I thought it was so painful. Perhaps it was de Botton's style I didn't like, not labyrinthine enough...;-)


Zanna I have gone off de Botton hugely since writing the reviewy bits of this review - i just updated it today because i found a page of notes in an old notebook!


Katie I guess I'm not a general reader. I think he's definitely a winner if such a thing even exists in life.

Zanna wrote: "Because his life story defies current White Euro-American stereotypes of success - that's the way de Botton paints it - the 'general' reader will ask 'what can I possibly learn from this loser?'"

Katie wrote: "Why is Proust an unlikely teacher?"


Zanna haha obviously I'm not endorsing the White Euro-American stereotype! The word 'loser' upsets me


message 11: by Catherine (new) - added it

Catherine This is a GREAT review.. thanks for writing it!


Zanna Thanks for reading Catherine! <3


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