Work - Reviews
Word Magazine, Interviewed by Kate Mossman, May 2009
As a piece of literature Alain de Botton’s new book, The Pleasures And Sorrows Of Work, is almost impossible to categorise. It’s a forensic examination of the workings of nine modern industries (he follows a single tuna fish from the moment it’s hauled out of the sea in the Maldives to the housewife who picks it up from Sainsbury’s in a tin). It features passages of imaginative prose as powerful as anything by Charles Dickens or George Orwell and explores the notion that people rarely feel connected to what they do for a living – toil away for an entire lifetime in careers they may have chosen in a flash at the age of 16.
The Spectator, Reviewed by William Leith, 22nd April 2009
In Aristotle’s time, de Botton tells us, people thought that one could only be happy if one did not work. ‘For the Greek philosopher, financial need placed one on a par with slaves and animals.’ But then things changed — as we became progressively industrialised, so work became more exalted. Catholics had thought holiness could only come from prayer and contemplation; Protestants, with their work ethic, thought that work itself had intrinsic value. These days, our economy depends on a high level of specialisation. People spend their lives doing weird things. How, de Botton wonders, do they cope? More...
New Statesman, Reviewed by John Gray, April 16th, 2009
There is a story about an aged playboy who, when a conversation with a friend is interrupted by a telephone call, asks incredulously: “You mean, when that thing rings, you answer it?” Few people have ever been able to afford to be so insouciant: for nearly everyone, work is a burden from which there is no escape. Still, the playboy’s reaction is not as flippant as it might seem. If most people’s everyday experience is the test, it is the idea that work is the chief route to personal fulfilment that seems frivolous. More...
Publisher's Weekly, Review published April 12th, 2009
This pensive study explores work not as an economic or sociological phenomenon but as an existential predicament. Observing an eclectic sample of workers, from fishermen to a CEO of an accounting firm, de Botton (How Proust Can Change Your Life) counterposes “the expansive intelligence” embodied in vast business organizations with the blinkered routines of their human cogs and finds that tension rife with philosophical conundrums. More...
The Australian, Review