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The success of the many Scandinavian and Oriental books dedicated to recipes for happiness – hygge, lagom, ikigai, wabi sabi, kintsugi, forest bathing… – demonstrate that we are all on the lookout for advice on how to live well and, in recent years, we have learned that it is much better to add value to what we already have and to rediscover simple pleasures rather than to chase fitfully after a consumeristic and ultimately illusory ideal of happiness. In truth this approach to life has always been part of the heritage of the Mediterranean people and has found its image and a perfect synthesis in the noble philosophical tradition of Epicureanism. Over the course of the centuries the content of this doctrine has often been misinterpreted and this has led to the spread of a distorted vision of Epicure’s work, which has been erroneously associated with a materialistic conception of life, reduced to an ideal of mere egoistic hedonism. Epicurean thought is not this at all. It was born in the garden of a lovely small Athenian house that the philosopher shared with the love of his life and it represents a true “Mediterranean diet for happiness”, through the invitation to sharing, to moderation and to enjoying the present moment and the simplest of pleasures. Freeing herself of her reverential respect and dusting off the texts crystallized in translations from another epoch, Angela Lombardo proposes a passionate and compelling rereading of the founding texts of this philosophical tradition, which on the one hand aims to give new lustre to the poetry and the irony and, on the other, leads them into dialogue with contemporary culture and some crucial themes of life today. Her fresh voice and the unlikely parallels she draws – which rather than providing answers actually raise questions to be reflected up-on together, in the most genuine tradition of ancient philosophy – allow us to understand the wisdom and the beauty of Epicurean doctrine and the literary texts inspired by it. And, above all, they show us that the art of convivial, joyous, ironic and vibrant living, which has always belonged to the Mediterranean peoples, is an instrument that is more than ever useful in our daily lives. It’s up to us to rediscover strength, wisdom and unforeseeable lightness.

Angela Lombardo, a Sicilian who moved to Milan to pursue a long and varied career in publishing, after having written many books from behind the wings (and having edited and translated many more), in Carpe diem recounts everything that her classics studies have taught her about the world and about life.