Publisher: Penguin Classics
Release Date: This edition 26th February 2015//written in 1600s
Genre: Memoir/not-very-helpful-self-help book
In these witty, Machiavellian aphorisms, unlikely Spanish priest Baltasar Gracián shows us how to exploit friends and enemies alike to thrive in a world of deception and illusion.
I don’t know how to rate this just as I don’t know how to feel about it. I will say this – if you’re looking for a genuine self-help/self-improvement book, stay well away from this one. If you’re looking for an interesting, strange insight into the ramblings of a Spanish priest in the middle-ages, you’re in luck.
Baltasar Gracián was well-renowned for his novel El Criticón which I haven’t read but from this book, I’m sure he’s a good writer and thinker. What came across in this little book is that he is also, really, a bit of a dick too.
This assumption isn’t purely without base. Exhibit A:
“You shouldn’t simply seek enjoyment from friendship, but profit.”
Yeah, he said that. Dick, yeah? Wait, here’s another.
“You are worth as much as other people say you are.”
Nope. Nope, nope, nope.
“Never be associated with someone who can cast you in a poor light, whether because they’re better or worse than you.”
I think we can assume he had a few insecurities around friendship and lived a pretty lonely life judging from this book, but there were a few little gems hidden amongst the bigotry.
“A person without knowledge is a world in darkness. Judgement and strength, eyes and hands; without courage, wisdom is sterile.”
“Better mad with the crowd than sane and all alone.”
Can you see why I couldn’t possible rate this? I disagree vehemently with about 70% of this book, loved a few select lines, but found the entire thing interesting from a psycho-analytic perspective. If you’re thinking of picking this one up, just make sure not to take too much of it to heart.
It’s a shortie, if that helps!