Monthly Archives: July 2011

‘Hector’s Voyage or the Search for Happiness’.


‘Hector’s Voyage or the Search for Happiness’ is a book by French psychiatrist François Lelord. As its title suggests, it’s about Hector, who travels to many places to find a proper definition of happiness. While on his travels he observes people to find out what make them happy.

Hector is a psychiatrist from Paris. He has many patients, who seem to be constantly unhappy. Moreover, he becomes slightly unhappy too, that’s why he decides to take a break from his work and to search for happiness. Inter alia, he visits his old friend in China, and also a monk. Furthermore, Hector travels to see his friend in Africa, and is kidnapped there by drug dealers, and then he goes to the United States. As a result of his travels he writes down lists of things that make him or other people happy: ‘happiness is doing a job you love’, ‘happiness is having a home and a garden of your own’, etc.

Basically, the book isn’t written in a very ornate way, so the average reader would find this work very easy to understand. Also, the author uses humorous style, so the reader would never get bored while reading ‘Hector’s Voyage’.

 I would say that this book is one of the most interesting I have ever read. On the other hand, it inspired me to think about things that make my life brighter. In order not to become too confessional, I’ll only list a few of them. One of the happiest things is listening to music with your friend, as happened to me a couple of days ago, and the piece we listened to was Aria on G String by J.S.Bach. Another thing that I would call a happy moment is talking with children. Two days ago I had a little conversation with my two years and eight months old niece: ‘ N: Auntie? Me: Yes? N: I’ll buy you a star.’ Me:‘ Which one?’ N: ‘That one from the sky.’ What more can I say?

 

 

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The Trick Is to Keep Breathing, by Janice Galloway


Contemporary times are not easy to deal with; our époque might be confusing, especially to those who are oversensitive. The Trick Is to Keep Breathing, a novel by Janice Galloway published in the UK by Polygon in 1989, deals with an important problem for the contemporary generation – depression.

The story is told by 27-year-old teacher Joy, who is an alcoholic, a typical femme fatale and suffers from depression; she had an eating disorder, she spent seven years in a strange, cold marriage. Later she jumped into a ‘happy’ (in her mind) relationship with a married man, but there were many things she didn’t know about him at that time; she didn’t realise that Michael wrote his diary in code, for example.

Also, her relationship with her family is bad and finally, she ends up in hospital. Almost at the end of the story, she confesses, ‘I am not a bad woman’. The key words from the last chapter, ‘I forgive’, symbolise the beginning of new life for her, as they allow her to clear herself from negative emotions.

The Trick Is To Keep Breathing is full of unexplained mysteries; until page 60 the reader is not aware of the reason for Joy’s mental state; also there is some tension when Joy waits for a mysterious lady. Later it turns out that the expected guest was a health visitor, but the reader is still not aware why Joy has the health visitor.

The author uses Barthes’ narrative structure like an enigma – resolution with 5 codes: the symbolical code refers to a psychological problem of Joy’s: she constantly lists things she ate and things to say to the doctor. The cultural code applies to Joy’s philosophy (‘God is missing’), and plot clichés us. The semantic code is hidden in cultural stereotypes, as in Joy’s relations with her ex-husband; ‘I learnt to cook’. The proairetic code refers to events ‘announcing’ future goings-on and the hermeneutic code uses its mystery to build tension.

The book consists of good plotting and interesting characters and Janice Galloway perfectly portrays contemporary society with its stereotypes and cultural values, where depressed people are almost invisible. However, many profanities used in the novel should be censored, although they were used intentionally – to emphasise Joy’s anger.

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