How Proust Can Change Your Life

By: Alain de Botton

How Proust Can Change Your Life is a distillation of wisdom drawing from famed novelist Marcel Proust's life and monumental three thousand page novel, In Search of Lost Time. It's so damn insightful, illuminates the quality to be found in everyday life, and emerges as a sort of witty self-improvement book through the examination of Proust.

My 10 Favorite Index Cards:

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.
But let all this threaten to become impossible for ever, how beautiful it would become again! Ah! If only the cataclysm doesn’t happen this time, we won’t miss visiting the new galleries of the Louvre, throwing ourselves at the feet of Miss X, making a trip to India.
The cataclysm doesn’t happen, we don’t do any of it, because we find ourselves back in the heart of normal life, where negligence deadens desire. And yet we shouldn’t have needed the cataclysm to love life today. It would have been enough to think that we are humans, and that death may come this evening.
— Marcel Proust
It is not the contented or the glowing who have left many of the profound testimonies of what it means to be alive. It seems that such knowledge has usually been the privileged preserve of , and the only blessing granted to, the violently miserable.
But an advantage of more prolonged encounters with Proust or Homer is that worlds that had seemed threateningly alien reveal themselves to be essentially much like our own, expanding the range of places in which we feel at home.
The more an account is compressed, the more it seems that it deserves no more space than it has been allocated.
I know there are young people… whose teachers have instilled in them a nobility of mind and moral refinement from the very beginning of their schooldays. They perhaps have nothing to retract when they look back upon their lives; they can, if they choose, publish a signed account of everything they have ever said or done; but they are poor creatures, feeble descendants of doctrinaires, and their wisdom is negative and sterile. We cannot be taught wisdom, we have to discover it for ourselves by a journey which no one can undertake for us, an effort which no one can spare us.
— Marcel Proust
It is perhaps only normal if we remain ignorant when things are blissful. When a car is working well, what incentive is there to learn of its complex internal functioning.
The problem with cliches is not that they contain false ideas, but rather that they are superficial articulations of very good ones.
Deprivation quickly drives us into a process of appreciation, which is not to say that we have to be deprived in order to appreciate things, but rather that we should learn a lesson from what we naturally do when we lack something, and apply it to conditions where we don’t.
Which suggests that having something physically present sets up far from ideal circumstances in which to notice it. Presence may in fact be the very element that encourages us to ignore or neglect it, because we feel we have done all the work simply in securing visual contact.
The worth of sights is dependent more on the quality of one’s vision than on the object viewed...

For more details, reviews, or to purchase: