The name hints at the size of the first printing of this books - pocket-fitting and densely printed sometimes hard to read because of this. It is for the 17th Century Baroque Spanish upper society, Spain being then in decline, away from being the world power, with France and Rococo soon taking their place. Some of the text clearly shows that certain aphorisms can be grouped together, and some themes do pop up again as one keeps reading. The style is laconic, which I like since it keeps the message clearly floating.
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He studied at a Jesuit school in and and theology in Zaragoza. He was ordained in and took his final vows in He assumed the vows of the Jesuits in 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.
During the Spanish war, he was chaplain of the army that liberated Lleida in Soon Gracian wrote to apply for membership in another religious order. His demand was not met, but his sanction was eased off: in April 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 6 December Gracian died in Tarazona, near Zaragoza in the Kingdom of Aragon.
It is a lengthy allegorical novel with philosophical overtones. It recalls the Byzantine style of novel in its many vicissitudes and in the numerous adventures to which the characters are subjected, as well as the picaresque novel in its satirical take on society, as evidenced in the long pilgrimage undertaken by the main characters, Critilo, the "critical man" who personifies disillusionment, and Andrenio, the "natural man" who represents innocence and primitive impulses.
The author constantly exhibits a perspectivist technique that unfolds according to the criteria or points of view of both characters, but in an antithetical rather than plural way as in Miguel de Cervantes. The novel reveals a philosophy, pessimism , with which one of its greatest readers and admirers, the 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer , identified.
Critilo, man of the world, is shipwrecked on the coast of the island of Santa Elena, where he meets Andrenio, the natural man, who has grown up completely ignorant of civilization. Together they undertake a long voyage to the Isle of Immortality, travelling the long and prickly road of life. In the third part, "En el invierno de la vejez" "In the Winter of Old Age" , they arrive in Rome, where they encounter an academy where they meet the most inventive of men, arriving finally at the Isle of Immortality.
He is intelligent and contributed greatly to the world. One of his most famous phrases is "Respect yourself if you would have others respect you. He constantly plays with words: each phrase becomes a puzzle, using the most diverse rhetorical devices.
It has sold nearly , copies. He is an acute thinker and observer, misled by his systematic misanthropy and by his fantastic literary theories". Arte de ingenio , revised as Agudeza y arte de ingenio in , an essay on literature and aesthetics.
El discreto , The Complete Gentleman , described the qualities which make the sophisticated man of the world. Leonard Kaye , or The Science of Success and the Art of Prudence, his most famous book, some aphorisms with comments.
The Art of Worldly Wisdom
The art of worldly wisdom