Baltasar Gracian – The Art Of Worldly Wisdom (1648) in new exclusive translation

Baltasar Gracian Y Morales was a Spanish philosopher and prose writer. He was born at Aragon on January 8, 1601. Not much is known about this man, especially his personal story. He entered Ignatius of Loyola’s Jesuit Order at the age of 18, and ultimately became rector of the Jesuit college at Tarazona, where he died on December 6, 1658. Under the pseudonym “Lorenzo”, he published his first book, “El Heroe”, when he was 36. At the same time, he was also appointed confessor at the court in Madrid. He became a monk in 1635. Different sources mention different dates of the milestones in his life.

He lived a double life and was good at it since he was able to do that for nearly twenty years – the Church did not allow the kind of books he was writing. Not even mentioning publishing them – the true laws of this world would have to remain with the very few ones, who decided to keep this knowledge for themselves.

Quoting his biographer, “In his writing, the beautiful is something sharp and pointed, and gallantry necessarily includes a provocation. It wanders between friendship and enmity, between uniting and fighting. It necessarily includes a devotion that is simultaneously a refusal. It includes guarding a secret, from which it constantly draws its interest and its attention.”

A scholar and satirist, he frequently expressed himself in epigrams, but that ultimately didn’t save him from coming into conflict with the order. Following the publication of his novel “El Criticon”, he was expelled from the order and died shortly thereafter. Nevertheless, his books continued to circulate and inspired admiration from very different people. Gracian has been repeatedly understood as presenting spiritual training in the borderland between humanism and the barbarism of increasingly confrontational social conditions.

Another writer says “The greatest minds of Europe, Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer, drew inspiration from his writings. His name is certainly not a household word, but over 300 years ago, this worldly Jesuit priest, counselor to kings, the genius of his age, made a careful study of the powerful and elite who managed to prosper. Today, his words and thoughts still speak eloquently to the need for ethical behavior in our chaotic world. His writings were later confiscated and banned by the Church, but his wisdom survived.”
One of his most famous books is “The Art Of Worldly Wisdom” (1648). Its only English translation was made over 150 years ago. However beautiful and sophisticated, it remains largely vague and hard to understand for a modern reader. The meaning is often obscured by archaic structure of sentences and choice of words.

We embarked on the task of creating a modern translation of “The Art Of Worldly Wisdom” so that the new generation can rediscover beauty and importance of Gracian’s writings. Not only that we carefully compared the previous translation against the original text, but also explored several other translations of this book in various languages. The result is what we believe the most accurate and up to date translation of that precious manuscript available. We dusted off and polished an ancient diamond so that it can shine even brighter.

Each week, we’ll add several more chapters here.

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