In pursuit of happiness

<strong>Talking of Love on the Edge of a Precipice</strong>

Boris Cyrulnik <em>Allen Lane, 192pp,

Boris Cyrulnik is a resilient man indeed. Despite a childhood filled with untold hardships during the Second World War, he went on to become a distinguished scholar of social sciences in France and is now famed for his development of the concept of resilience. This book outlines how the human spirit can rediscover happiness in the wake of trauma.

Cyrulnik interweaves personal tales of human strength in various life-destroying scenarios, from

an 18-year-old girl who learns she will never walk again to the countless people who endured the Holocaust. By taking conditions that are potentially detrimental to the soul and converting them into tools for dealing with the future, Cyrulnik provides us with the power of hope. His message is simple: no object, smell or sight is ever the same once it has become associated with a negative memory; and regardless of our efforts, we cannot simply forget our past. Human beings cannot live in a world without memories, and so control must be established over them and the scenarios of the past reworked to enrich the present and the future.

This lesson in resilience of the spirit resists being slushy or sentimental. Talking of Love on the Edge of a Precipice is a soothing and cathartic book.

This article first appeared in the 19 February 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Iran - Ready to attack