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."
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).
"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
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
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Pascal Bruckner: