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In the first Quarterly Essay for 2011, David Malouf returns to one of the most fundamental questions and gives it a modern twist: what makes for a happy life?

With grace and profundity, Malouf discusses new and old ways to talk about contentment and the self. In considering the happy life what it is, and what makes it possible David Malouf returns to the "highest wisdom" of the classics, looks at how, thanks to Thomas Jefferson's way with words, happiness became a "right", and examines joy in the flesh as depicted by Rubens and Rembrandt. In a world become ever larger and impersonal, he finds happiness in an unlikely place. This is an essay to savour and reflect upon by one of Australia's greatest novelists.

"How is it, when the chief sources of human unhappiness, of misery and wretchedness, have largely been removed from our lives … that happiness still eludes so many of us? … What is it in us, or in the world we have created, that continues to hold us back?" —David Malouf, The Happy Life

David Malouf is one of Australia's most celebrated writers. He is the author of poems, fiction, libretti and essays. In 1996, his novel Remembering Babylon was awarded the first International IMPAC Dublin Liter­ary Award. His 1998 Boyer Lectures were published as A Spirit of Play: The Making of Australian Consciousness. In 2000 he was selected as the sixteenth Neustadt Lau­reate. His most recent novel is Ransom.

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