The French Art of Not Trying Too Hard

Penguin Life. Sept. 2020. 240p. ISBN 9780143135494. $20. SELF-HELP
Americans love the allure of Paris and everything French. In a year of struggle and travel bans, owing to COVID-19, which makes it impossible for Americans to visit France, this title comes at a perfect time. In his first book translated into English, Paris-based philosopher Pourriol takes a compelling look at the French attitude toward making things look easy. According to the author, “effortlessness is quite an art, maybe even the height of art. It’s the hardest thing in the world.” Borrowing from a mixture of philosophers, artists, actors, and athletes, most of them French, Pourriol shows how this can be achieved in different areas of life. He draws heavily from the works of the radical pacifist philosopher known as “Alain,” providing an undercurrent of how this approach to life also brings happiness. Pourriol set out to write a readable “airport book,” and he has succeeded. This translation flows well thanks to the seemingly effortless work of Stevenson.
VERDICT For lovers of all things French, but also for those who enjoy philosophy and self-help books that discuss working “smarter, not harder.”

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