In An Education in Happiness (Un'educazione alla felicita), Flavia Arzeni discusses that most elusive of mental states, happiness, and how two of the twentieth century's greatest writers and Nobel-Pize winners, Rabindranath Tagore and Hermann Hesse, thought we should seek it.
Happiness is neither a privilege of the few, nor a fleeting state of mind: it is hidden behind a door that every person can open once they have found it, at the end of an arduous journey of self-discovery.
Tagore and Hesse are arguably very different: one comes to us from the core of Indian culture, the other from the very heart of Old Europe; the former is an eternal wanderer, the latter a determined armchair traveller. Still, there are extraordinary affinities between their works, and they both understood that the path to happiness is paved with small acts and simple notions.
Arzeni offers us an oasis of stability and calm in which we can find the answers to our fundamental concerns about life and happiness.
Flavia Arzeni's An Education in Happiness is translated from the Italian by Howard Curtis published by Pushkin Press.
Flavia Arzeni is Professor of Modern German Literature at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University La Sapienza in Rome.
Flavia Arzeni is Professor of Modern German Literature at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University La Sapienza in Rome. Her previous works include Images and Symbols. Japonism in European Culture between the 19th and 20th century (Il Mulino, 1987), Berlin, A Literary Journey (Sellerio, 1997) and The Journey to Rome. From Freud to Pina Bausch (Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2001). An Education in Happiness: The Lessons of Hesse and Tagore was first published in Italian by Rizzoli in 2008 and was awarded the Grinzane Pavese prize. The author has travelled extensively and lived in Tokyo, London and Washington DC. The metaphor of the garden shared by Hesse and Tagore inspired the author to create a garden for meditation on the border between Tuscany and Umbria, close to the same paths that Hesse walked in his Italian journeys.