Is Selfishness the Key to Happiness?

The Bookshelf of Emily J.

I’m sure most of us would immediately answer “no” to the question the title poses. I do. I think self-care and self-love are important in order to be able to share love and affection with others, but I don’t think selfishness leads to happiness.

However, one of the characters of Anita Brookner’s Hotel Du Lac (1984) thinks that selfishness is just what everybody needs in order to be fulfilled. Mr. Phillip Neville preaches this doctrine to the protagonist, Edith Hope, an apt name for a woman who in the end decides to ignore his advice.

Here’s what Mr. Neville believes.

The secret to contentment “is simply this. Without a huge emotional investment, one can do whatever one pleases. One can take decisions, change one’s mind, alter one’s plans. There is none of the anxiety of waiting to see if that one other person has everything she desires, if she is…

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