Among Gracian’s literary output are political essays, life counseling and practical advice, and the three-part book Criticón, an allegorical and pessimistic work with philosophical implications that contrasted an idyllic primeval life with the horrors of civilization (published in 1651, 1653, and 1657).
He was deported from the convent for publishing Criticón without the authorization of his superiors, despite the fact that he used multiple pen identities. His creative activities were inconsistent with the anonymity of Jesuit life.
Oráculo manual y Arte de prudentia (1647), a compilation of 300 maxims translated into German by Schopenhauer and into English by Joseph Jacobs in 1892 as The Art of Wordly Wisdom, is his most well-known work outside of Spain’s borders.
Being a Master of Worldly Knowledge
The ellipsis (a rhetorical device in which the narrative skips over scenes) and the concentration of the maximum amount of meaning in the least amount of form, an approach referred to in Spanish as agudeza, characterize Gracián’s style, which is generally referred to as “concept” (wit).
Agudeza was taken to its logical conclusion by Gracian in the Oráculo manual and Arte de Prudencia (1637), which is nearly entirely made up of three hundred maxims with comments on the “art of worldly wisdom.” Each of his sentences is a riddle, and he employs a wide variety of rhetorical tactics to solve it.
- Everything is already at its highest point (Todo está ya en su punto)
- Keep Matters for a Time in Suspense (Llevar sus cosas con suspencion)
- Knowledge and Courage (El saber y el valor)
- Avoid the Faults of your Nation (Desmentir Los cheques de su nation)
- Cultivate those who can teach you (Tratar con quien se pueda aprender)
- Act sometimes on Second Thoughts, sometimes on First Impulse (Obrar de intention, ya Segunda y ya Primera)
- Keep a Store of Sarcasms, and know how to use them (Conocer y saber usar de las varrillas)
- Think with the Few and speak with the Many (Sentir con Los menos y hablar con Los mas)
- Obtain and preserve a Reputation (Conseguir y conservar la reputation)
- Think most about the things that matter most (Hazer concepto y mas de lo que importa mas)
Oraculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia (The Art of Worldly Wisdom), written by Baltasar Gracian in 1637, was published in Spain. Joseph Jacobs translated the novel into English in 1892. Additionally, he released El heroe that year (The Hero).
El politico Don Fernando el Católico, or The Politician King Ferdinand the Catholic, was published in 1640 and became a best-selling book. El Discreto, or the Prudent Man, was the film that came after it, in 1647. In 1648, Agudeza y Arte de Ingenio, or The Wit and Art of the Mind, was published shortly after.
In addition, Baltasar Gracian penned a series titled Criticón (Spanish for “Critical man”), which was published in 1657. After this, he was exiled. He was exiled to Graus by his superiors, who were enraged at the series. He succumbed to his injuries a short time later, in 1658.