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Perpetual Euphoria: On the Duty to Be Happy [Hardcover]

Pascal Bruckner , Steven Rendall
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Jan 2011

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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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (30 Jan 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691143730
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691143736
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14.9 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 310,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review


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

From the Inside Flap


"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



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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A philological interpretation of happiness 12 Mar 2011
Format:Hardcover
It is not often these days to be mesmerised by the language of great orators and writers.

Pascal Bruckner, and Steven Rendall (translator) have produced a masterful book for the English language readers, who will love the use of the words, even when disagreeing with some of the content.

In song we have had a range of people prescribing happiness: Bobby McFerrin: "Don't worry, be happy"; and Mary J. Blige's "Be Happy". Bruckner's language is no less melodic.

Bruckner declares: "I am opposing not happiness but the transformation of this fragile feeling into a veritable collective drug to which everybody is supposed to become addicted in chemical, spiritual, psychological, digital and religious forms. The most elaborate wisdom and sciences have to confess their inability to guarantee the felicity of peoples and individuals. Felicity, every time it touches us, produces a feeling of having received a grace, a favour, not that of a calculation, a specific mode of behaviour. And perhaps we experience the good things of the world, opportunities, pleasures, and good fortune to a degree that we would have abandoned the dream of attaining Beatitude with a capital letter.
To the young Mirabeau, we would like to reply: `I love life too much to want to be merely happy'" (Bruckner, Perpetual Euphoria, 2010, p. 6).

This brilliant book is worth reading several times, and unlike most books, it gets better each time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perpetual Euphoria; On The Duty to be Happy 10 April 2011
Format:Hardcover
This is such an brilliant book, an excellent antidote to all those nauseating self-help books which purport to tell us all how to change our lives and make us all so happy. This book may indeed change your life and may well make you a happier person.
Saying all that though it is not a zippy slogan ridden read. It's a work that requires effort, thought and time. It is also a grown up scholarly piece. From someone who usually sticks to fiction it has made a delightful change.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A philologist's delight 12 Mar 2011
By Dr Neil MacNeill - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It is not often these days to be mesmerised by the language of great orators and writers.

Pascal Bruckner, and Steven Rendall (translator) have produced a masterful book for the English language readers, who will love the use of the words, even when disagreeing with some of the content.

In song we have had a range of people prescribing happiness: Bobby McFerrin: "Don't worry, be happy"; and Mary J. Blige's "Be Happy". Bruckner's language is no less melodic.

Bruckner declares: "I am opposing not happiness but the transformation of this fragile feeling into a veritable collective drug to which everybody is supposed to become addicted in chemical, spiritual, psychological, digital and religious forms. The most elaborate wisdom and sciences have to confess their inability to guarantee the felicity of peoples and individuals. Felicity, every time it touches us, produces a feeling of having received a grace, a favour, not that of a calculation, a specific mode of behaviour. And perhaps we experience the good things of the world, opportunities, pleasures, and good fortune to a degree that we would have abandoned the dream of attaining Beatitude with a capital letter.
To the young Mirabeau, we would like to reply: `I love life too much to want to be merely happy'" (Bruckner, Perpetual Euphoria, 2010, p. 6).

This brilliant book is worth reading several times, and unlike most books, it gets better each time.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Why Not Strive for Happiness? 26 Feb 2011
By Eric Mayforth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
French philosopher Pascal Bruckner believes that the right conferred by the Enlightenment to pursue happiness has been transformed into a duty to be continually happy, and that seeking to eliminate pain entirely puts pain and its avoidance at the center of our thoughts.

"Perpetual Euphoria" is a thought-provoking study of happiness today and how both religious and secular developments of the past few centuries have affected our view of happiness. The author also considers boredom and suffering, and asserts that the secret is not to care about happiness, but to allow it to come as it will and just enjoy the times that it does.

Bruckner lays out what might be considered a more European view of happiness. In America, we put more emphasis on striving to be happy, and I think that our view is the correct one--partially or even largely mitigating tough situations is possible through forced cheerfulness. But as in The Tyranny of Guilt, in "Perpetual Euphoria" Bruckner proves himself such a sinewy thinker that you will likely enjoy reading his work even when you disagree with it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perpetual Euphoria - On the Duty to be Happy by Bruckner 29 April 2011
By essa - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
At last someone has the courage to tell it like it is about 'Happiness!' I was (momentarily) euphoric after finishing this book. It is, above all, REALISTIC. I have NEVER been known as a 'gloom-and-doom' sort of person. Yet one thing hugely annoys me -- people who go about beaming like manic jack-in-the-boxes while nagging me to 'Smile! Be Happeeeeeee!' This authour has the sense to realise that while the 'pursuit of happiness' is a worthy goal, the true state is vastly different (and much rarer) than the happy-clappy, asinine, infantile emotional state that attempts to simulate happiness nowadays. I recommend this book to everyone!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brillant and thought-provoking, worthy of the applause and careful attention 8 April 2011
By S.S Koontz Fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Pascal Bruckner's "Perpetual Euphoria" will arouse all kinda of intrigue, poignantly capturing society's current craze with finding "happiness." In fleshing out the flaws of today's never-ending chase for this "euphoria" Bruckner weaves a powerful essay that helps one take a step back and realize that perhaps the pursuit of happiness is only keeping us further from the good life. Filled with sound morsels of wisdom, historical anecdotes, and beautifully rich writing, this book will become an instant classic that will forever change the way you see life. Highly recommended.
3.0 out of 5 stars Happiness: duty and commodity? Or random flashes of joy? 10 April 2014
By Richard A. Leveille - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As the title implies, Bruckner’s thesis is that once happiness becomes a duty, which it has evolved into in post-post-enlightenment societies (life, liberty and the pursuit of…..), it becomes well-nigh unachievable. Counterfeits are too easily achieved, these include many of the forms of what is currently defined as “happiness” (i.e. they can be bought fairly cheaply in the post-modern consumer society) and they become banal and no longer really qualify. He goes on to propose that the persistence of suffering and death, which Western cultures, try as they might, have been unable to vanquish, gives lie to all of the promises of perpetual happiness on earth achieved by any of the myriad means advertised incessantly (self-help books, plastic surgery, political programs, etc). His final statement seems to be that, firstly, we can actively palliate and dignify some aspects of suffering and death to the benefit of the afflicted and of society in general, secondly, while we may never triumph over them, at least some (very few) amongst us can cock them a snook by using them as catalysts to create our greatest works of art. He finally says that perhaps the secret of a good life is not to give a damn about happiness, not to seek it as such, but let it retain its aleatory, unexpected and surprising character which we must relish when and if it touches us, but only in the pursuit of something else.

I the book at least modestly stimulating, occasionally very funny, given that Bruckner can turn a really clever phrase now and again.
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