How Proust Can Change Your Life

Alison Lurie in the New York Review of Books
15 March 2007
In the last decade he has considered—in books whose brevity and informal tone disguise the occasional gravity of their content—travel, love, literature, philosophy, and the value of reading. His best-known work, How Proust Can Change Your Life, is accurately described on its flyleaf as both a perceptive literary biography and a self-help manual. Read more

Amy Kiernan in Humanitas
Volume XI, No. 1, 1998
If you do not have time to read all the volumes of Remembrance of Things Past (or if you cannot fit it on your bookshelves), Alain de Botton’s book, which highlights the best in Proust, is a good alternative. How Proust Can Change Your Life: Not A Novel provides exactly what its title promises: an insightful, concise explanation of how to live more perceptively, intensely and genuinely. Read more

Frank Gannon in the New York Times
15 June 1997
Mr. de Botton’s book could have been accurately titled “Living for the Moment the Marcel Proust Way.” Seen in this light, “A la Recherche du Temps Perdu” is a very unusual self-help book. Read more

Julie K.L. Dam in Time
2 June 1997
Even the most diligent of readers may be excused for falling short of conquering the Mount Everest of 20th century literature, Marcel Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time). Considering the thousands of pages in the 13-part autobiographical novel, there should be no question where that lost time went. Read more

John Updike in the New Yorker
2 June 1997
Alain de Botton, the author of “How Proust Can Change Your Life” (Pantheon; $19.95), is described on the dust jacket as living in London and Washington, but his name and his passion for codification savor strongly of the Gallic. His curious, humorous, didactic, and dazzling book bears the subtitle “Not a Novel”; it contains, however, more human interest and play of fancy than most fiction. Read more

Christopher Lehmann-Haupt in the New York Times
22 May 1997
One doesn’t usually think of Marcel Proust as the author of a great self-help book. Unless of course what you admire most about ”Remembrance of Things Past” is its usefulness for killing huge amounts of time. Read more

Benito Rakower in the Washington Post Sunday
4 May 1997
Marcel Proust, a perpetual invalid who rarely left his cork-lined room, lived as no sane man could even imagine, while writing a novel that only the most determined readers have been able to finish. Some readers have felt like Mallory and Irving, 500 feet from the summit of Everest, gasping for breath in an increasingly rarefied atmosphere. Read more

Cressida Connolly in The Sunday Express
13 April 1997
All bookworms know that Proust’s A la Recherché du Temps Perdu is one of the century’s literary masterpieces. But recognising its importance and finishing the work do not always go hand in hand: at 1.25 million words it is the printed equivalent of the Grand National. Read more

Interview with Edmund White in the Observer
13 April 1997
Everyone has always spoken of Proust as the Great Moralist, but no-one before Botton has had the chutzpah to take the claim literally. For the first time someone has set out to isolate rules of conduct and general principles about Life that can be derived from the 2,000 pages of Remembrance of Things Past (which Botton, following Nabokov’s example, more literally translates as In Search of Lost Time). Read more

Allan Massie in Daily Telegraph
12 April 1997
Neville Cardus once called on Sir Thomas Beecham in his dressing room after a performance of “Die Meister-singer”. He found the great man wrapped in a towel and sipping champagne. “Wagner, ” said Sir Thomas, “was the most selfish man that ever lived.” Read more

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