Synopses & Reviews
Now in paperback, John Portmann's provocative and groundbreaking book explores what the Germans call "Schadenfreude"--the all-too-human foible of deriving pleasure from the suffering of others. "When Bad Things Happen to Other People" examines the complexity inherent to "Schadenfreude" by engaging not only philosophers like Kant and Nietzsche but a variety of thinkers and writers including Freud, Baudelaire, Dickens and even contemporary novelists like Umberto Eco and Toni Morrison. What makes this book compulsively readable is that "Schadenfreude" becomes a springboard to explore many pressing issues in contemporary society, ranging from debates over institutional punishment to our insatiable desire for media images of power, scandal and betrayal. Encyclopedic in its scholarship yet accessible and strangely intimate, this highly original book challenges all of us to reexamine our feelings about suffering, sympathy and the ambiguity of justice.
"Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies", Gore Vidal once observed. It's funny, it's terrible, and it's true. What is it in human nature that makes us derive pleasure from others' -- even friends' -- suffering? John Portmann explores this all-too-human foible -- what the Germans call Schadenfreude -- in the first book ever written about this universal emotion.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -233) and index.