Book Review: Maxims

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on March 7, 2011

François de la Rochefoucauld was certainly the cynical sort, but I enjoyed his Maxims immensely. Some might think that it is easy to write a book filled with aphorisms, but it is, in fact, tremendously challenging to convey significant amounts of meaning in only a few words. La Rochefoucauld did so brilliantly; it is easy to see why Nietzsche considered him an inspiration for the latter’s own famous and penetrating series of aphorisms.

The realism of la Rochefoucauld’s observations are bracing and arresting. There were certainly times when I rebelled against his observations. But many of them struck me as uncanny in their ability to perceive the human condition. The shocking nature of his observations are leavened by the wit and humor with which those observations are offered. Even if one disagrees with la Rochefoucauld’s philosophy, one cannot help but be entertained by his writing.

I applaud not only the quality of the translation of la Rochefoucauld’s writings, but the fact that the original French is included along with the translation. This gives French-speakers like me a chance to practice our linguistic skills while reading the book, as well as letting us judge for ourselves whether the translation is up to snuff.

An excellent book. Highly recommended.

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