How to Use Your Enemies by Baltasar Gracian is a compilation of his blunt suggestions to the reader on how to live life. Gracian goes on to dictate terms of socializing, thinking and thereby presents the reader with the consequence of their changed actions. These opinions, strong as they are in conviction, appear to have arisen from his personal experiences. However, a lot of them are coated with insecurity and point towards the defense mechanism of an individual subdued by the connivery of a progressive world.
I’ve read quite a few negative reviews about this book. People seemed to be offended by the fact that Gracian is asking them to “Find everyone’s weak spot.” or “Know how to use your friends”. Even though I did not agree with many of his ideas, I was able to laugh it off as being more humorous (in a sarcastic way) than serious. A lot of the advice could possibly sound rude, selfish and insensitive. But literature is subjective. Gracian’s experiences frame his writing and we are no one to judge him the worst for it. Some of his suggestions are very self-serving (like “Chose your friends”, “Be desired”, “Show yourself off”) but intentionally/not we function that way. It’s psychologically understood that people are motivated by drives that grant them some sort of benefit. Our need for security ensures that we trust selectively; our need for love ensures that we feel included and appreciated. His statements are bold and true. I enjoyed reading this book, not only because I was able to detect slight humor but also because of how honest it is. That being said it got a little bleak towards the end. Also, some of his opinions were a tad bit contradictory. Pick it up, if you wish to read something different, something that challenges you to retrospect.
Ratings – 3 stars on 5.