How Russian literature can save your life –

Why turn to great authors for good advice on how to live our lives? A woman whose famous novelist husband is celebrated for his powers of observation, assured me that X wouldn’t notice if everything in their house, including the children, was removed, so long as his desk and laptop remained. As a breed, literary lions tend to be selfish spouses and absent fathers. What use could they possibly be as Agony Uncles?

None the less, the trend for books seeking therapeutic properties in literary novels and poetry shows no sign of going away. It started back in 1997 with Alain De Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life, which became a surprise international bestseller. That was largely due to the charming way De Botton used the French master to tease out wry, universal truths. If you were being cynical, it also flattered the readers’ intelligence while saving them the bother of reading seven volumes…


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