Book Review: “Hector finds time”, a novel by Francois Lelord (French), published by Gallic Books (Great Britain) 2012.
Francois Lelord, himself a psychiatrist, created this fictional character named Hector in his first novel “Hector and the Search for Happiness”. The writer continued with the same fictional character in his third book. This time round, Hector journeyed on to find the answer to why people are up against the clock and why people are always short of time for activities. He is trying to understand why some people wanted to slow down time; why some wanted to speed time up and why most worried about time.
As a psychiatrist, he came across patients with different concerns about time. Hubert, a patient, wished he could turn back the clock and showered his wife with more attention. Marie-Agnes wanted to stay young to meet many more suitors.
Hector had written a Time Exercise which I thought was very meaningful:
“Imagine your life as a big roll of fabric, from which you have made all the clothes you have worn since you were little. Imagine the set of clothes you could made with the rest of the roll.”
A person’s life is finite and will end one day much like the roll of fabric simile. What is past is gone and there is no need to dwell in them. What is important is to move forward and lead a meaningful life at this very moment till the end.
Hector addressed the question of time at two levels.
One is the level of conventional understanding of time and how best to live life fully without regret or worry. The writer came up with many Time Exercises to help readers to reflect and find out for themselves several positive behaviour. An example is to take note of how many times during the course of a day that you have set aside time for yourself. Do not live life based on others imposing on your time. For those in a career, a useful advice is to sort out everything you have to do into “important for doing your job well”, “important for your boss”, and “important for your career”. How much time do you spend on each of the three? The ideal proportion is dependent on your individual circumstances. There are many more such Time Exercises to let you tackle time.
The second level is at a philosophical level. You ask such question as the definition of time. “There is no time without movement, and no movement without time. Time is a measure of movement.” The writer brought in several philosophers in his book: Aristotle, Pascal, Hobbes, St Augustine, Kant and others to review their different perspectives on time. One last Time Exercise which is profound is: “to try to experience the present as eternity and feel that it’s everything and nothing at the same time”.
The novel was written in French by the author back in 2006. It was translated into English by Carol Gilogley and published in 2012.
Like his first bestseller book, Francois Lelord wrote simply. The same format was adopted with Hector travelling and meeting people from Arctic, China and his home country, to discover the answers to his quest on meaning of time. He provided a list of Time Exercises to summarise what was written as he discovered new ideas and nuggets of living out time.
The writer used several of his dreams to expound some ideas that were not conventional and not easily comprehensible by lay readers. The philosophies disclosed were far-fetched in this realm of existence, ie “too cheem” as my learned friend used to address a concept that is beyond one’s intellect. Because the dreams came on without warning, I was not able to switch direction so smoothly as I progressed with the book. I had to re-read that part again before I can anchor my bearing.
My expectation of reading the writer’s third book was that I am going to get practical tips on time management. This was not to be. Instead it was the exercises which the author wanted us to work it out ourselves to live time. Some philosophical aspects of the book did floor me. On balance, there are more good ideas for one to take away after reading this novel.