A stop-and-smell-the-roses book by a distinguished French anthropologist.
According to Héritier (Two Sisters and Their Mother: The Anthropology of Incest, 1999), this book originated as a response to a postcard from her physician, friend and fellow academic, who wrote that he was enjoying his holiday in Scotland and referred to it as “a ‘stolen’ week.” The author started thinking about who was stealing what from whom and why her habitually overworked colleague felt the need to experience life’s sweetness during a stolen week rather than to enjoy it on a daily basis. Her response was “kind of a prose poem paying tribute to life…an enumeration, an ordinary list in one long sentence, of ideas that came to me of their own accord by fits and starts, like a long, whispered monologue” cataloging “the intimate thrill of small pleasures.” Essentially an essay-long sentence broken into more digestible bite-sized chapters (for to devour it all at once would make life seem more exhausting than sweet), she doesn’t write as an academic or an anthropologist, nor are the pleasures she shares particularly personal, though they do reflect her perspective as a woman and her experience as someone who remembers World War II. Her list runs the gamut from “remembering to breathe deeply now and then” and “feeling surprised that you are still alive,” to “urinating outdoors.” At the end, she invites readers to add to the list, reinforcing the idea that life’s riches are inexhaustible. Of her own list, she writes, “We are simply concerned with the way to make everything in life a treasure of grace and beauty that always keeps growing of its own accord, in a place where you can draw on it daily.”
A reminder of blessings.