by Alain de Botton
Publisher: Random House
Originally published: 1997
Marcel Proust (1871-1922) was a French novelist, critic and essayist. His greatest work, In Search of Lost Time was published in English between 1913 and 1927. The seven volumes of the work make it one of the longest novels in the English Language. This dubious accolade has placed him in the same arena as War and Peace and Ulysses, seen as not worth the effort, maybe unintelligible, a little too much. Botton aims to show that In Search of Lost Time and the other works of Proust are worthy of effort.
How Proust Can Change Your Life is split between nine areas in which Botton believes Proust can render valuable advice. Among these are how one should take one’s time, how one should read for oneself, how one should express one’s emotions. There are loftier topics regarding being happy in love, suffering successfully, and being a good friend. Botton makes a powerful argument as to why the reader would be well repaid for taking the time to read In Search of Lost Time, and by giving the work the consideration and due diligence it deserves.
While the book aims to convince one to give Proust a chance, Botton also gives a glimpse into the author’s fascinating life. You will learn how the man died, refusing treatment for a cough. Botton also tells of the encounter between the author and James Joyce, two of the greatest literary figures of English literature, a meeting that does not go as one would expect.
While How Proust Can Change Your Life may not necessarily send you running for the first volume of In Search of Lost Time just yet, it may lead you to learn more of a fascinating life that was both personally tragic and socially rich.