This is a genius-level piece of writing that manages to blend literary biography with self-help and tongue-in-cheek with the profound. The quirky, early 1900s French author Marcel Proust acts as the vessel for surprisingly impressive nuggets of wisdom on down-to-earth topics such as why you should never sleep with someone on the first date, how to protect yourself against lower back pain, and how to cope with obnoxious neighbors. Here's proof that our ancestors had just as much insight as the gurus du jour and perhaps a lot more wit. De Botton simultaneously pokes fun at the self-help movement and makes a significant contribution to its archives.
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'What a marvellous book this is ...de Botton dissects what (Proust) had to say about friendship, reading, looking carefully, paying attention taking your time, being alive and adds his own delicious commentary. The result is an intoxicating as it is wise, amusing as well as stimulating, and presented in so fresh a fashion as to be unique ...I could not stop, and now much start all over again.' - Brian Masters, "Mail on Sunday".'De Botton not only has a complete understanding of Proust's life ...but what is particularly charming about this small, readable book is its tongue-in-cheek benignity, its lightly held erudition and its generous way of lending itself to what is not only the greatest book of the century but also the darkest and the most eccentric' - Edmund White, "Observer".'It contains more human interest and play of fancy than most fiction ...de Botton, in emphasizing Proust's healing, advisory aspects, does us the service of rereading him on our behalf, providing of that vast sacred lake a sweet and lucid distillation.' - John Updike, "New Yorker".'De Botton's little book is so charming, amusing and sensible that it may even itself change your life.'
- Allan Massie, "Daily Telegraph".'This engaging book is one of the most entertaining pieces of literary criticism I have read in a long while.' - "Sunday Telegraph".'A very enjoyable book' - "Sebastian Faulks".