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The Art of Worldly Wisdom
     

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

4.6 17
by Balthasar Gracian
 

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The Art of Worldly Wisdom is a book by Baltasar Gracián y Morales (a.k.a. Baltasar Gracián). It is a collection of maxims. Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia was written in 1637, and became popular throughout Europe. The book is a collection of 300 maxims, each with a commentary, on various topics giving advice and guidance on how to live fully,

Overview

The Art of Worldly Wisdom is a book by Baltasar Gracián y Morales (a.k.a. Baltasar Gracián). It is a collection of maxims. Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia was written in 1637, and became popular throughout Europe. The book is a collection of 300 maxims, each with a commentary, on various topics giving advice and guidance on how to live fully, advance socially, and be a better person.

Baltasar Gracián y Morales, SJ (January 8, 1601 – December 6, 1658) was a Spanish Jesuit and baroque prose writer. He was born in Belmonte, near Calatayud (Aragon). His proto-existentialist writings were lauded by Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.

The son of a doctor, in his childhood Gracián lived with his uncle, who was a priest. He studied at a Jesuit school in 1621 and 1623 and theology in Zaragoza. He was ordained in 1627 and took his final vows in 1635.

He assumed the vows of the Jesuits in 1633 and dedicated himself to teaching in various Jesuit schools. He spent time in Huesca, where he befriended the local scholar Vincencio Juan de Lastanosa, who helped him achieve an important milestone in his intellectual upbringing. He acquired fame as a preacher, although some of his oratorical displays, such as reading a letter sent from Hell from the pulpit, were frowned upon by his superiors. He was named Rector of the Jesuit college of Tarragona and wrote works proposing models for courtly conduct such as El héroe (The Hero), El político (The Politician), and El discreto (The Discreet One). During the Spanish war with Catalonia and France, he was chaplain of the army that liberated Lleida in 1646.

In 1651, he published the first part of the Criticón (Faultfinder) without the permission of his superiors, whom he disobeyed repeatedly. This attracted the Society's displeasure. Ignoring the reprimands, he published the second part of Criticón in 1657, as a result was sanctioned and exiled to Graus at the beginning of 1658. Soon Gracian wrote to apply for membership in another religious order. His demand was not met, but his sanction was eased off: in April of 1658 he was sent to several minor positions under the College of Tarazona. His physical decline prevented him from attending the provincial congregation of Calatayud and on December 6, 1658, Gracian died in Tarazona, near Zaragoza in the province of Aragon.

Gracián is the most representative writer of the Spanish Baroque literary style known as Conceptismo (Conceptism), of which he was the most important theoretician; his Agudeza y arte de ingenio (Wit and the Art of Inventiveness) is at once a poetic, a rhetoric and an anthology of the conceptist style.
The Aragonese village where he was born (Belmonte de Calatayud), changed its name to Belmonte de Gracian in his honour.

Gracián's style, generically called conceptism, is characterized by ellipsis and the concentration of a maximum of significance in a minimum of form, an approach referred to in Spanish as agudeza (wit), and which is brought to its extreme in the Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia (literally The Oracle, a Manual of the Art of Discretion, commonly translated as The Art of Worldly Wisdom), which is almost entirely composed of three hundred maxims with commentary. He constantly plays with words: each phrase becomes a puzzle, using the most diverse rhetorical devices.

Its appeal has endured: in 1992, Christopher Maurer's translation of this book remained 18 weeks (2 weeks in first place) in the Washington Post's list of Nonfiction General Best Sellers. It has sold nearly 200,000 copies.

The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica wrote of Gracián that "He has been excessively praised by Schopenhauer, whose appreciation of the author induced him to translate the Oráculo manual, and he has been unduly depreciated by Ticknor and others. He is an acute thinker and observer, misled by his systematic misanthropy and by his fantastic literary theories."

Product Details

BN ID:
2940015550733
Publisher:
Balefire Publishing
Publication date:
10/03/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
275
File size:
10 MB

Meet the Author

Baltasar Gracián y Morales, SJ (January 8, 1601 – December 6, 1658) was a Spanish Jesuit and baroque prose writer. He was born in Belmonte, near Calatayud (Aragon). His proto-existentialist writings were lauded by Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.

The son of a doctor, in his childhood Gracián lived with his uncle, who was a priest. He studied at a Jesuit school in 1621 and 1623 and theology in Zaragoza. He was ordained in 1627 and took his final vows in 1635.

He assumed the vows of the Jesuits in 1633 and dedicated himself to teaching in various Jesuit schools. He spent time in Huesca, where he befriended the local scholar Vincencio Juan de Lastanosa, who helped him achieve an important milestone in his intellectual upbringing. He acquired fame as a preacher, although some of his oratorical displays, such as reading a letter sent from Hell from the pulpit, were frowned upon by his superiors. He was named Rector of the Jesuit college of Tarragona and wrote works proposing models for courtly conduct such as El héroe (The Hero), El político (The Politician), and El discreto (The Discreet One). During the Spanish war with Catalonia and France, he was chaplain of the army that liberated Lleida in 1646.

In 1651, he published the first part of the Criticón (Faultfinder) without the permission of his superiors, whom he disobeyed repeatedly. This attracted the Society's displeasure. Ignoring the reprimands, he published the second part of Criticón in 1657, as a result was sanctioned and exiled to Graus at the beginning of 1658. Soon Gracian wrote to apply for membership in another religious order. His demand was not met, but his sanction was eased off: in April of 1658 he was sent to several minor positions under the College of Tarazona. His physical decline prevented him from attending the provincial congregation of Calatayud and on December 6, 1658, Gracian died in Tarazona, near Zaragoza in the province of Aragon.

Gracián is the most representative writer of the Spanish Baroque literary style known as Conceptismo (Conceptism), of which he was the most important theoretician; his Agudeza y arte de ingenio (Wit and the Art of Inventiveness) is at once a poetic, a rhetoric and an anthology of the conceptist style.
The Aragonese village where he was born (Belmonte de Calatayud), changed its name to Belmonte de Gracian in his honour.

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The Art of Worldly Wisdom (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Jeffreythebookworm More than 1 year ago
I collect "wisdom books" of all types. They must meet certain criteria. (1) they must meed the demands of a busy life; (2) they must have ideas that are immediately accessible -- no time to "dig;" (3) they must be well written; (4)they must be written in a spirit of education and personal growth, and (5) they must not be just a set of techniques. I agree with the philosopher Schopenhauer's assessment--that this book teaches lessons that would otherwise require a lifetime to learn. The author was a high ranking Jesuit, and his dual focus is on devotion as well as the maneuverings necessary to stay out of trouble with the types of personalities everyone must deal with on the job. The book helps the reader to keep egg off his/her face, avoid gaffes, observe the changing environment carefully, avoid getting ripped off by glib talkers and hare brained schemes, and to get along with superiors in most, and even viscious, circumstances. I think this book should be required reading of everyone, along with Aesop's Fables and the Book of Proverbs.
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Legate_Scipio More than 1 year ago
This work is brilliant even centuries after its writing. It offers sound wisdom for social interaction. It seems to convey that while times change and technologies progress, two variables always remains constant--self and other people. This book seeks to teach proper conduct of one's self and on dealing with others.
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tlt- More than 1 year ago
clever to the point of genius, perhaps the greatest aphorist of all time.
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DonnaMom1 More than 1 year ago
I haven't finished the book yet, but I am really enjoying reading it. It is amazing how the advice is so timeless. Sometimes I have to reread the passage to grasp its full meaning, but it is definitely worth it. I keep it by my bedside and try to read a page or two every night.
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Janus More than 1 year ago
A collection of 300 anecdotes, Gracian's The Art of Worldly Wisdom is for the most part, relevant even today. The reader will find many inspiring words to live by. However, each anecdote starts with the central idea Gracian is trying to convey, but quickly degrades into an exercise in verboseness. I would suggest only reading the first sentence or two of each one. That's the important part anyways.