Review: Power of Gentleness - Meditations on the Risk of Living by Anne Dufourmantelle

Power of Gentleness: Meditations on the Risk of Living is an examination of the nature of kindness as well as its relevance in modern world.

The author's approach to examining kindness is neither overly religious nor philosophical (as I understand it) but anthropological. People with a taste for abstract philosophical thinking combined with tolerance for complex language and thought processes should love this book.


Kindness is one of those traits that gets dragged in the mud for being more trouble than its worth. There is a perception that being kind opens you up to being scammed, trampled upon, etc. I am happy to see a book that kicks out this view point and defines what kindness is meant to be and what it's not.

Power of Gentleness is translated from French and, though the translators did a good job, I cannot help but think the book flows better in its original language. This English version is not an entertaining read - it is clunky and struggles to convey some of its ideas coherently.

"Gentleness incites violence because it doesn’t offer any possible foothold on authority. Dostoyevsky, Melville, Hugo, Flaubert, or the Tolstoy of “Master and Man” utilize it as the elusive force that opposes injustice. So much so that those who embody gentleness are condemned in the eyes of men....

"In the symbolic order as in certain martial arts, gentleness can drive back and defeat evil better than any other response. Nothing can force it or commit others to it. In our day, gentleness is sold to us under its diluted form of mawkishness. By infantilizing it our era denies it. This is how we try to overcome the high demands of its subtlety—no longer by fighting it, but by enfeebling it. Language itself is therefore perverted: what our society intends for the human beings that it crushes 'gently,' it does in the name of the highest values: happiness, truth, security.

"If love and joy have essential affinities with gentleness, is it because childhood holds the enigma? Gentleness shares with childhood a kind of natural community but also a power. It is the secret lining, or where the imaginary joins the real in a space that contains its own secret, making us feel an astonishment from which we can never entirely return."


Power of Gentleness: Meditations on the Risk of Living by Anne Dufourmantelle will be available to buy on all major online book stores around March 2018?

Many thanks to Fordham University Press for review copy.

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