On Consolation: Finding Solace in Dark Times by Michael Ignatieff - review by Julian Baggini

Julian Baggini

The Art of Losing

On Consolation: Finding Solace in Dark Times


Pan Macmillan 304pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Failure, bereavement, decrepitude, disappointment, separation, betrayal: throughout human history, such vicissitudes have driven people to seek consolation. Today, however, most don’t want to be consoled – they want to be made whole again. As Michael Ignatieff writes in his quietly heroic attempt to make consolation fit for purpose once more, our therapeutic culture treats any suffering as ‘an illness from which we need to recover’. Consolation is a prize only for losers.

Ignatieff is battling the zeitgeist in reminding us that to be a loser is just the human condition. In the age of positive thinking, when the secular amulets of mindfulness, exercise and good diet can supposedly ward off all evil spirits, any acceptance of the inevitability of brokenness that

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