Really, I’ve done my best to keep up my spirits during this past sorely trying year of pandemic and traumatizing politics. I’ve weeded my books and sorted my papers, written about comic novels and escapist fiction in this weekly column, helped care for my wife who smashed up her ankle last fall, with attendant complications and surgeries. Above all, like most people, I’ve done my best not to get sick and not to go crazy. But last week’s violent assault on Congress was one straw too many. Suddenly, it seemed frighteningly easy to picture President Trump breaking into shrill German as he ranted to his worshipful followers about the need to show strength.
Happily, that fearful vision remained only in my perhaps overheated imagination, but it did cause me to seek calm in my week’s reading — and what better calm than the consolation of philosophy? As it happened, I was recently sent a selection from Arthur Schopenhauer’s later writings, “On the Suffering of the World,” edited by Eugene Thacker, a professor at the New School in Manhattan.