Fiona Sturges*1 “On Consolation by Michael Ignatieff review – timely meditations on comfort” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2022/feb/03/on-consolation-by-michael-ignatieff-review-timely-meditations-on-comfort

マイケル・イグナティエフ*2 On Consolationという本の書評。

When the world is in crisis, where should we look for comfort? Given humanity’s dwindling religious beliefs, we are less likely than previous generations to see our lives as part of a grand cosmic plan, or believe that paradise awaits in the great beyond. All of which can make consolation – the idea that there is a point to existence, and therefore to our tragedy and suffering – that much harder to find.

In his new book of essays, the Booker prize-shortlisted novelist, academic and erstwhile politician Michael Ignatieff examines the concept of solace over the centuries and how we might find it in our more secular age. “The challenge of consolation in our times,” he explains, “is to endure tragedy, even when we cannot hope to find a meaning for it, and to continue living in hope.” This is not a tract on how to improve your mental health or a guide to self-care. Rather, it’s a meditation on the nature of comfort, explored via a series of portraits of artists, writers and thinkers who have stood on the precipice of despair and sought consolation in difficult times.

現代社会における「慰め」、つまり苦悩の超越的な落としどころを見出すことが困難であることが指摘されているのか? 所謂世俗化ということ。また、これはお悩みを解決するためのハウ・ツーを提供する本ではなく、あくまでも様々なアーティストや思想家の実例を通じての、「安心の本質についての省察( a meditation on the nature of comfort)」*3なのだという。また、「苦悩」を取り除くべき病気と捉える現代のセラピー文化への批判も含意されてるらしい。「苦悩」をそのように還元すとき、何かが失われる。

To tackle human suffering, Ignatieff would rather go back in time and study the examples set by our predecessors, first of which is Job, on whom God inflicts multiple cruelties to test his devotion, from slaughtering his cows and burning down his house to giving him the plague. Ignatieff is not religious but does respect religious traditions and parables. From the trials of Job, he sees a man who keeps faith in the face of despair.
Elsewhere, he looks at the Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero who preached stoicism and self-control, and whose convictions were put to the test when his daughter, Tullia, died in childbirth. He also considers the art of El Greco, the music of Gustav Mahler, the letters of St Paul and the political convictions of Karl Marx. Like Max Weber, another case study here, Marx’s ideas were tethered not to a higher power but to the welfare of future generations.

Ignatieff’s subjects are unapologetically high-minded – much as it could be fun to read him on the healing properties of Chic’s Good Times, or the films of Billy Wilder, popular culture doesn’t get a look-in, which is his prerogative. That the subjects are overwhelmingly white and male is more dispiriting, however. Just two women feature: the social worker and physician Cicely Saunders, who advocated for better end-of-life care and in 1967 founded St Christopher’s Hospice in London, gets a chapter to herself, while the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, writer of Requiem, about the Great Purge of 1937, gets a paltry three pages. Ignatieff makes clear that his choices are personal, though his approach seems strangely blinkered.

But there are also lessons to be taken from those who have faced enormous hardship and emerged with a greater understanding of themselves and their place in the world. Ignatieff’s aim in telling these stories is to remind us that we are not the first generation to encounter despair and to search for pathways through it. “What do we learn that we can use in these times of darkness?” he asks. “Something very simple. We are not alone and never have been.”