Perpetual Euphoria: On the Duty to be Happy

Perpetual Euphoria: On the Duty to be Happy

Hardback Princeton University Press

By (author) Pascal Bruckner, Translated by Steven Rendall

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  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 256 pages
  • Dimensions: 147mm x 216mm x 25mm | 408g
  • Publication date: 13 February 2011
  • Publication City/Country: New Jersey
  • ISBN 10: 0691143730
  • ISBN 13: 9780691143736
  • Sales rank: 175,735

Product description

Happiness today is not just a possibility or an option but a requirement and a duty. To fail to be happy is to fail utterly. Happiness has become a religion--one whose smiley-faced god looks down in rebuke upon everyone who hasn't yet attained the blessed state of perpetual euphoria. How has a liberating principle of the Enlightenment--the right to pursue happiness--become the unavoidable and burdensome responsibility to be happy? How did we become unhappy about not being happy--and what might we do to escape this predicament? In Perpetual Euphoria, Pascal Bruckner takes up these questions with all his unconventional wit, force, and brilliance, arguing that we might be happier if we simply abandoned our mad pursuit of happiness. Gripped by the twin illusions that we are responsible for being happy or unhappy and that happiness can be produced by effort, many of us are now martyring ourselves--sacrificing our time, fortunes, health, and peace of mind--in the hope of entering an earthly paradise. Much better, Bruckner argues, would be to accept that happiness is an unbidden and fragile gift that arrives only by grace and luck. A stimulating and entertaining meditation on the unhappiness at the heart of the modern cult of happiness, Perpetual Euphoria is a book for everyone who has ever bristled at the command to "be happy."

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Author information

Pascal Bruckner is the award-winning author of many books of fiction and nonfiction, including the novel "Bitter Moon", which was made into a film by Roman Polanski. Bruckner's nonfiction books include "The Tyranny of Guilt" (Princeton), "The Temptation of Innocence", and "The Tears of the White Man" (Free Press).

Review quote

Finalist for the 25th Annual Translation Prize (Nonfiction), French-American Foundation & Florence Gould Foundation "Perpetual Euphoria is a beautiful essay. Lively, corrosive, brilliant... [W]oven from pure emotion."--Le Journal du Dimanche "A writer who has inherited the mantle of the French moralists' grand tradition."--Le Monde "Pascal Bruckner's essay is a subtle attack, both scholarly and ironic, against the new obligation of being happy."--La Croix "As an essayist in the tradition of Kundera and Montaigne, Bruckner has a bracing knack of distilling the attitudes of the contemporary moment and helping us appraise them anew."--The Age "The happiness-promotion and happiness-backlash schools are locked today in a weird, symbiotic struggle. Weighing in on the side of the anti-happiness underdog is this sublime rhetorical performance by the novelist and philosophe Bruckner, denying serially that the individual has a duty to pursue happiness; that happiness could be a social goal; that happiness is the opposite of boredom, or the absence of suffering, or the fulfillment of plans."--Steven Poole, Guardian "This book is stimulating, sometimes funny, and an antidote to the worship of all that is considered 'cool.'"--Julia Pascal, Independent "[A] brilliant book... Perpetual Euphoria is more than a book. It is a manifesto. It is a work of genius. It is my bible."--Roger Lewis, Daily Mail "Pascal Bruckner ... in this witty, iconoclastic and thoroughly enjoyable polemic he shows how anxious and miserable life becomes when it is ruled by an obsessive preoccupation with feeling happy. Bruckner's range of reference is admirably wide... [Perpetual Euphoria] is studded with arresting thoughts and questions."--John Gray, Literary Review "[Perpetual Euphoria] is a hugely entertaining argument that traces the pursuit of happiness through the French and American revolutions and concludes that we should all relax because it is only through peace of mind that true happiness is found."--Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald "[T]his exciting book explores the vicious paradox that the Enlightenment has left: one is obligated to find happiness and punish oneself if one fails to do so... [T]his book is fun to read."--Choice "Bruckner gives us a nuanced and mature reflection on the nature of happiness in light of past reflections and cultural criticism of the West... [He] is well worth reading, especially since he cannot and has not escaped framing his entire book in the Christian categories of Augustine, Thomas, and Pascal."--Gregory Edward Reynolds, Ordained Servant Online "This lively and acerbic exploration of happiness attacks the assumption that we somehow have a duty to be happy, that to fail to achieve happiness is in effect to fail as a human being, and offers the intriguing alternative view that an interesting but difficult life has more value than a comfortable but trivial one."--Good Book Guide

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"Pascal Bruckner, the anti-Pangloss of our time, engagingly reminds us that it is better to lead a rich life with tears than a happy one lacking meaning."--Alan Wolfe, author of "The Future of Liberalism" "Pascal Bruckner might well be the most distinguished essay writer in France today. He is both inordinately talented and prodigiously politically incorrect. No one better unmasks the pieties of the reigning intellectual cant. Whether one agrees or disagrees with him, he does the life of the mind an invaluable service."--Richard Wolin, author of "The Wind from the East"

Table of contents

Introduction: Invisible Penitence 1 Part I: Paradise Is Where I Am 7 Chapter One: Life as a Dream and a Lie 9 Chapter Two: The Golden Age and After? 27 Chapter Three: The Disciplines of Beatitude 39 Part II: The Kingdom of the Lukewarm, or The Invention of Banality 67 Chapter Four: The Bittersweet Saga of Dullness 69 Chapter Five: The Extremists of Routine 84 Chapter Six: Real Life Is Not Absent 106 Part III: The Bourgeoisie, or The Abjection of Well-Being 129 Chapter Seven: "The Fat, Prosperous Elevation of the Average, the Mediocre" 131 Chapter Eight: What Is Happiness for Some Is Kitsch for Others 149 Chapter Nine: If Money Doesn't Make You Happy, Give It Back! 163 Part IV: Unhappiness Outlawed? 181 Chapter Ten: The Crime of Suffering 183 Chapter Eleven: Impossible Wisdom 206 Conclusion: Madame Verdurin's Croissant 227 Index 233