An entertaining and insightful exploration of schadenfreude: the deliciously dark and complex joy we’ve all felt, from time to time, at news of others’ misfortunes.
You might feel schadenfreude when… the boss calls himself “Head of Pubic Services” on an important letter a cool guy swings back on his chair, and it tips over. a Celebrity Vegan is caught in the cheese aisle. an aggressive driver cuts you off — and then gets pulled over. your co-worker heats up fish in the microwave, then gets food poisoning. an urban unicyclist almost collides with a parked car. someone cuts the line for the ATM — and then it swallows their card. your effortlessly attractive friend gets dumped.
We all know the pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune. The Germans named this furtive delight in another’s failure schadenfreude (from schaden damage, and freude, joy), and it has perplexed philosophers and psychologists for centuries. Why can it be so satisfying to witness another’s distress? And what, if anything, should we do about it?
Schadenfreude illuminates this hidden emotion, inviting readers to reflect on its pleasures, and how we use other people’s miseries to feel better about ourselves. Written in an exploratory, evocative form, it weaves examples from literature, philosophy, film, and music together with personal observation and historical and cultural analysis. And in today’s world of polarized politics, twitter trolls and “sidebars of shame,” it couldn’t be timelier.
Engaging, insightful, and entertaining, Schadenfreude makes the case for thinking afresh about the role this much-maligned emotion plays in our lives — perhaps even embracing it.