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on 23 May 2003
.
A very small book of three-hundred maxims, covering practically all of the wisdom one needs to go through life. Each maxim covering less than a page, often only half or a quarter.
Originally written in Spanish in 1637 by a Jesuit scholar, it has been translated into eight European languages. Among the best of which is the one by another scholar and literary critic named Joseph Jacobs, who also collected folklores (including English and Celtic fairy tales, as well as the fables of Aesop); this, too, is a good one, albeit not preserving as much of Gracian's epigrammatic style, including his word plays and puns.
In contrast to Machiavelli, who put CRUDE REALITY into words, Gracian is more on the side of a little IDEALISM and NOBILITY in
living one's life. Which is not to say he aims for ASPHYXIA; much is given to living a happy life, part of which is giving oneself a break and a breather.
[NEGATIVE] A few maxims are of limited use for its obviousness--in essence, "sometimes go left, sometimes go right". (Uhm, aren't those ALL of the very choices from which one must pick? And doesn't EVERYBODY ALREADY know that.) The wisdom of everything else in the book in nonetheless undiminished.
The brevity (not concise; some maxims are translated rather long-windedly) of the maxims does not mean that they are to be read as many in one stretch. After all, the benefits only start when wisdom is absorbed and lived out. Best to read through a dozen at most at a time; re-read and re-read, giving each time to sink into the heart and mind; only then move onto the next dozen or two.
Quite ENLIGHTENING. Worth keeping one copy of. Or perhaps two--a hardcover edition, too, in one's library, work desk, coffee table or reception room . . . for anyone who might walk in or anyone being made to wait, and who could use the time literally wisely.
.
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on 5 January 2008
Get the more expensive 1904 version, it's far better, and readily available on Amazon.

This version makes the preposterous claim of being an "updated" version.

An American has more or less gone through the original English translation, pedantically removing all the "u"s from words like: honour, valour, behaviour, etc..., and left the syntax in archaic Yoda style to give the impression of "wise-alidy" (as an American might say).

That is it! That's all they've done, and they call that "updating"!

An American can read the word "honour" and know what it means (and all the other words); so to purposefully go through the book simply converting a few of the words to illiterate Americanese is even more appallingly pedantic than complaining about it.

More to the point, there's no analysis of the content.
If this book had genuinely been updated into modern language, and the author had understood the subtle differences in meaning between words as used in the 17th century and the 21st century, like "advantage" for example, you might get a far clearer understanding of what the original writer, Gracian, actually meant.
Readers might also spot the repetitiousness of some of the maxims - many of them could probably be comfortably conflated.

Certainly it would have been nice and useful to link common sayings like "If in doubt, say naught" and "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer" and "Look before you leap" - because that's all it really amounts to - readers might get a better measure of the book, and see it not as some secret code for machiavellian living and clambering up the greasy pole or just avoiding general faff in life from an ancient mystic floating on a cloud, but as the condensed essence of the diaries of some bloke in 1630's.

Don't get me wrong, the work is interesting and useful, and makes a good read when you're on the toilet; but this version is atrocious, and I'll be looking for a better version eventually, so I can flush this 'orrible American one down it.

As said, just search for Balthasar Gracian, and get the English version!

(I've put 1 star to bring the overall starrage down, but I'd give it about 4 probably anyway).
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on 28 January 2006
I am not going to repeat the content so well described in the reviews above. What I want to say is that these maxims and suggestions are just as applicable today as they may have been in the 16th century.
Gracian talks about the importance of reputation, how to build alliances and how to survive amongst people more powerful than oneself. Working in the NHS it has been incredibly useful.
Classics like 'The Prince' and 'The Art of War' often assume you are going all out to compete, or that you are in possession of power and resources you want to use to best effect. For those of us further down the food chain, this kind of advice on how to advance without treading on the toes of the people who can stamp on us is more applicable.
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on 17 February 1998
The Art of Worldly Wisdom is one of my favorite books. It was written in the 1600s and contains 300 maxims in paragraph form. All you have to do is to open the book to the back where you will find a listing of the maxims. For instance, #192 is "A peaceful life is a long life." and #148 is "Have the art of conversation." Then turn to the appropriate page for your lesson in full. It's a tiny book that will amaze you with the amount of brilliance it contains. It's a book that will fit in your pocket and help you through life. I hope you'll love it as much I do.
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on 23 May 2003
.
A very small book of three-hundred maxims, covering practically all of the wisdom one needs to go through life. Each maxim covering less than a page, often only half or a quarter.
Originally written in Spanish in 1637 by a Jesuit scholar, it has been translated into eight European languages. Among the best of which is the one by another scholar and literary critic named Joseph Jacobs, who also collected folklores (including English and Celtic fairy tales, as well as the fables of Aesop); this, too, is a good one, albeit not preserving as much of Gracian's epigrammatic style, including his word plays and puns.
In contrast to Machiavelli, who put CRUDE REALITY into words, Gracian is more on the side of a little IDEALISM and NOBILITY in
living one's life. Which is not to say he aims for ASPHYXIA; much is given to living a happy life, part of which is giving oneself a break and a breather.
[NEGATIVE] A few maxims are of limited use for its obviousness--in essence, "sometimes go left, sometimes go right". (Uhm, aren't those ALL of the very choices from which one must pick? And doesn't EVERYBODY ALREADY know that.) The wisdom of everything else in the book in nonetheless undiminished.
The brevity (not concise; some maxims are translated rather long-windedly) of the maxims does not mean that they are to be read as many in one stretch. After all, the benefits only start when wisdom is absorbed and lived out. Best to read through a dozen at most at a time; re-read and re-read, giving each time to sink into the heart and mind; only then move onto the next dozen or two.
Quite ENLIGHTENING. Worth keeping one copy of. Or perhaps two--a hardcover edition, too, in one's library, work desk, coffee table or reception room . . . for anyone who might walk in or anyone being made to wait, and who could use the time literally wisely.
.
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on 26 March 1997
This book is one of the book that helps me to live in this world as an adult. If you want to develop your inner standard higher, this book is the one you must read... Two thumbs up!!!!
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on 25 August 1999
Many personal insights and borrowed nuggets of wisdom come back in alienated majesty through this book. By far, more deep than many in its genre and definitely more wide in treatment than most.
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on 18 August 1999
Longform text in Mandarin paperback is a better read; but this pocket edition more than makes up for the loss with its brevity in style and size.
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