Alain de Botton
|Alain de Botton|
20 December 1969 |
|Occupation||Writer, documentary maker|
Alain de Botton, FRSL (born 20 December 1969) is a Swiss/British writer, philosopher, television presenter and entrepreneur, resident in the United Kingdom. His books and television programmes discuss various contemporary subjects and themes, emphasizing philosophy's relevance to everyday life. At 23, he published Essays In Love (1993), which went on to sell two million copies. Other bestsellers include How Proust Can Change Your Life (1997), Status Anxiety (2004) and The Architecture Of Happiness (2006). In August 2008, he was a founding member of a new educational establishment in central London called The School of Life. In May 2009, he was a founding member of a new architectural organization called "Living Architecture". In October that year, de Botton was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, in recognition of his services to architecture. In 2011, de Botton was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL).
Early life and family 
Born in Zurich, de Botton is the son of Jacqueline (née Burgauer) and Gilbert de Botton, who was born in Alexandria, Egypt, from where he was expelled (along with the rest of the Jewish community) under Nasser, and then went to live and work in Switzerland. Gilbert was the co-founder of an investment firm called Global Asset Management. Gilbert's wealth was estimated by one source to have reached £234 million in 1999. De Botton's Swiss-born mother was Ashkenazi, and while de Botton's father was from a Sephardic Jewish family, originating from a small Castilian town of Boton (now vanished) on the Iberian peninsula. His ancestors include Abraham de Boton. De Botton's paternal grandmother was Yolande Harmer. He has one sister, Miel, and they received a secular upbringing. De Botton spent the first twelve years of his life in Switzerland where he was brought up to speak French and German.
He was sent to the Dragon School, a boarding school in Oxford, where English became his primary language. Describing himself as a shy child, he boarded at Harrow School, before going up to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he read History (1988–1991), graduating with a double starred first (MA), and subsequently completed a Master's degree (MPhil) in Philosophy at King's College, University of London (1991–1992). He began studying for a PhD in French philosophy at Harvard University, but gave up this research to write books for the general public.
De Botton has written in a variety of formats to mixed response. Positive reviews of de Botton's books claim that he has made literature, philosophy and art more accessible to a wider audience.
Ambivalence is apparent in the following example,
de Botton's idea of bringing philosophy to the masses and presenting it in an nonthreatening manner (and showing how it might be useful in anyone's life), is admirable; the way he has gone about it is less so. —The Independent
De Botton has written books of essays in which his own experiences and ideas are interwoven with those of artists, philosophers and thinkers. These have been called a "philosophy of everyday life."
In his first novel, Essays In Love (titled On Love in the U.S.), published in 1993, de Botton deals with the process of falling in and out of love. The style of the book is unusual because it mixes elements of a novel with reflections and analyses normally found in non-fiction. In 2010, Essays in Love was adapted to film by director Julian Kemp for the romantic comedy My Last Five Girlfriends.
In 1997 he published his first non-fiction book, How Proust Can Change Your Life, based on the life and works of Marcel Proust. It is a mixture of a "self-help" envelope and analysis of one of the most revered books in the Western canon, In Search of Lost Time. It was a bestseller in the US and UK.
This was followed by The Consolations of Philosophy in 2000. The title of the book is a reference to Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy, in which philosophy appears as an allegorical figure to Boethius to console him in the period leading up to his impending execution. Though sometimes described as works of popularization, Proust and Consolations were attempts to develop original ideas about friendship, art, envy, desire, and inadequacy, among other things, with the help of thoughts of other thinkers. In The Consolations of Philosophy, de Botton attempts to demonstrate how the teachings of philosophers such as Epicurus, Montaigne, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Seneca, and Socrates can be applied to modern everyday woes such as unpopularity, feelings of inadequacy, financial worries, broken hearts, and the general problem of suffering. The book has been both praised and criticized for its therapeutic approach to philosophy.
De Botton then returned to a more lyrical, personal style of writing. In The Art of Travel, he looked at themes in the psychology of travel: how we imagine places before we see them, how we remember beautiful things, what happens to us when we look at deserts, stay in hotels, and go to the countryside.
In Status Anxiety (2004), de Botton examines an almost universal anxiety that is rarely mentioned directly: what others think of us; about whether we're judged a success or a failure, a winner or a loser.
In The Architecture of Happiness (2006), he discusses the nature of beauty in architecture and how it is related to the well-being and general contentment of the individual and society. He describes how architecture affects people every day, though people rarely pay particular attention to it. A good portion of the book discusses how human personality traits are reflected in architecture. He ends up defending Modernist architecture, and chastising the pseudo-vernacular architecture of housing, especially in the UK. "The best modern architecture," he argues, "doesn't hold a mirror up to nature, though it may borrow a pleasing shape or expressive line from nature's copybook. It gives voice to aspirations and suggests possibilities. The question isn't whether you'd actually like to live in a Le Corbusier home, but whether you'd like to be the kind of person who'd like to live in one."
In The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (2009), a survey of ten different jobs, including accountancy, rocket science and biscuit manufacture, which includes two hundred original images and aims to unlock the beauty, interest and occasional horror of the modern world of work.
In response to a question about whether he felt "pulled" to be a writer, de Botton responded:
So I think where people tend to end up results from a combination of encouragement, accident, and lucky break, etc. etc. Like many others, my career happened like it did because certain doors opened and certain doors closed. You know, at a certain point I thought it would be great to make film documentaries. Well, in fact, I found that to be incredibly hard and very expensive to do and I didn’t really have the courage to keep battling away at that. In another age, I might have been an academic in a university, if the university system had been different. So it’s all about trying to find the best fit between your talents and what the world can offer at that point in time.
In August 2009, de Botton replied to a competition advertised among British literary agents by BAA, the airport management company, for the post of "writer-in-residence" at Heathrow Airport. The post involved being seated at a desk in Terminal 5, and writing about the comings and goings of passengers over a week. De Botton was duly appointed to the position. The result was the book, A Week at the Airport, published by Profile Books in September 2009. The book features photographs by the documentary photographer Richard Baker, with whom de Botton also worked on The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.
In January 2012, de Botton published Religion for Atheists, a look at some of the more interesting and consoling benefits of religions for those who happen not to believe in them. As de Botton put it: 'Religions are in the end too complex, wise and fascinating to be abandoned simply to those who happen actually to believe in them'.
In April 2012, de Botton published How to Think More about Sex, one in a series of six books on topics of emotional life published by his enterprise, The School of Life. In the book, he addressed a range of challenges that sex throws up. Other books in the series looked at sanity, money, work fulfilment and life in the digital world. The series was edited by de Botton.
Newspapers, lecturing and television 
De Botton writes regular articles for several English newspapers, and from 1998 to 2000, wrote a regular column for The Independent on Sunday. He also travels extensively to lecture on his works. He owns and helps run his own production company, Seneca Productions, making television documentaries based on his works. De Botton has given lectures at TED conferences. In July 2011, he spoke in Edinburgh about "Atheism 2.0", an idea of atheism that also incorporates our human need for connection, ritual and transcendence. In July 2009, he also spoke in Oxford about the philosophy of failure and success, and questions the assumptions underlying these two judgments.
Other projects 
The School of Life 
De Botton's project from 2008 is The School of Life – a new cultural enterprise based in central London aiming to offer instruction on how to lead a fulfilled life. In an interview with
metkere.com de Botton said:
The idea is to challenge traditional universities and reorganize knowledge, directing it towards life, and away from knowledge for its own sake. In a modest way, it’s an institution that is trying to give people what universities should I think always give them: a sense of direction and wisdom for their lives with the help of culture.
Living Architecture 
In May 2009, de Botton launched a new architecture project called "Living Architecture" – which builds a series of innovative houses in the UK using leading contemporary architects. These include Peter Zumthor, MVRDV, JVA, NORD and Michael and Patti Hopkins. The most recent house to be announced is a collaboration between the Turner-prize winning artist Grayson Perry, and the architecture firm FAT. The houses are rented out to the general public. De Botton, who is the creative director and chairman of Living Architecture aims to improve the appreciation of good contemporary architecture – a task which is the practical continuation of his theoretical work on architecture in his book The Architecture of Happiness. In October 2009, de Botton was appointed an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, in recognition of his services to architecture.
Personal life 
De Botton has described his relationship with his father as difficult, stating: "When I sold my first bestseller (and a million dollars was peanuts for my father) he was not impressed and wondered what I was going to do with myself." When his father died, his family was left a large trust fund, although de Botton says his income is derived solely from the proceeds of his book sales. His stepmother Janet de Botton is a prominent patron of the arts and competition bridge player. De Botton lives in London.
- Essays In Love (1993), published as On Love (1993) in the US.
- The Romantic Movement (1994)
- Kiss and Tell (1995)
- How Proust Can Change Your Life (1997)
- The Consolations of Philosophy (2000)
- The Art of Travel (2002)
- Status Anxiety (2004)
- The Architecture of Happiness (2006)
- The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (2009)
- A Week at the Airport (2009)
- Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion (2012)
- How to Think More About Sex (2012)
TV series 
- Philosophy: A Guide To Happiness (from The Consolations of Philosophy)
- Socrates on Self-Confidence
- Epicurus on Happiness
- Seneca on Anger
- Montaigne on Self-Esteem
- Schopenhauer on Love
- Nietzsche on Hardship (featuring Cathal Grealish)
- What Humanities Should Teach: Arguing teachers of humanities in universities have only themselves to blame for cuts in funding.
- News and Concentration: Examining our inability to concentrate.
- The Ecological Sublime: A philosopher's take on ecological dilemmas.
- Are Museums Our New Churches?: Argues that museums could learn from churches with regard to getting their message across.
- In Praise of the Nanny State: Asks why the idea of a Nanny State is so unappealing.
- On Marriage: Muses on why a bookish life is a poor preparation for marriage.
- In Praise of the Zoo: Muses on the value of exotic animals in giving perspective on our own lives.
- The Art of Conversation: Questions why we put so much effort into social encounters but leave conversation to chance.
- What's in a Marriage?: Argues that expecting one person to be a good partner, lover and parent is, almost, asking the impossible.
- On Social Climbing: Argues that social climbing should be seen as evidence of a natural curiosity about the modern world.
- Modern Parenting: Takes a witty look at modern parenting.
- The Advantages of Pessimism: Why pessimism is the key to happiness.
- A Point of View: podcast
- "Seneca Productions – Homepage". www.senecaproductions.com. Archived from the original on 1 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-26.
- "The School Of Life – Homepage". www.theschooloflife.com.
- "Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, Alain de Botton, the architecture of happiness, the consolations of philosophy, how Proust can change your life, essays in love, philosophy a guide to happiness, The School of Life". www.alaindebotton.com.
- "Alain de Botton's Living Architecture Project". Buildingdesign.com.
- Post. "Sunday Times Rich List". Thesundaytimes.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-05-08.
- "Gilbert de Botton", The Telegraph, obituaries, 30 Aug 2000.
- Ian Black and Benny Morris (2007). Israel's Secret Wars: A History of Israel's Intelligence Services. Grove Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-8021-3286-4.
- de Botton, Alain (2011-12-24). "An atheist at Christmas: Oh come all ye faithless". The Guardian (London).
- The Real World: Alain de Botton, philosopher, writer and TV presenter, The Independent
- New York, Alain de Botton, Volume 35, New York Magazine Co., 2002, page 90
- "The Consolations of Philosophy – Alain de Botton". www.complete-review.com. Archived from the original on 16 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-23. "De Botton's idea of bringing philosophy to the masses and presenting it in an unthreatening manner (and showing how it might be useful in anyone's life), is admirable; the way he has gone about it is less so."
- "Philosophy for a night out at the Dog and Duck". London: The Independent. 2000-04-03. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- Hamilton, Fiona; Coates, Sam; Savage, Michael (March 2002). "Financial alarm under the palms". London: Times Literary Supplement. Retrieved 2009-07-11. "All de Botton's books, fiction and non-fiction, deal with how thought and specifically philosophy might help us deal better with the challenges of quotidian life, returning philosophy to its simple, sound origins."[dead link]
- "Why it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive". Evening Standard. May 2002. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
- Conrad, Peter (2000-04-09). "When Nietzsche meets Delia Smith". London: guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-03-23. Text " Books " ignored (help); Text " The Observer " ignored (help)
- Charlie Brooker (January 2005). "The art of drivel". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-07-11. "...a pop philosopher who's forged a lucrative career stating the bleeding obvious in a series of poncey, lighter-than-air books aimed at smug Sunday supplement pseuds looking for something clever-looking to read on the plane"
- "Flaccid fallacies". London: guardian.co.uk. 2000-03-25. Archived from the original on 23 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-20. "De Botton's new book consists of obvious, hopeless or contradictory advice culled from great thinkers on how to overcome certain problems of existence." Text " Books: The Guardian " ignored (help)
- Jim Holt (2006-12-10). "Dream Houses". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-06. "Like de Botton’s previous books, this one contains its quota of piffle dressed up in pompous language."
- Mark Lamster. "I.D. – Bring Back the Bluebird". www.id-mag.com. Retrieved 2009-04-17. "...little of the original thinking that might be expected from an outsider... The Architecture of Happiness would be an innocuous castoff if not for its proselytizing ambitions"
- Naomi Wolf (March 2009). "The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton". London: The Times. Retrieved 2009-07-11. "...this book examining “work” sounds often as if it has been written by someone who never had a job that was not voluntary, or at least pleasant."
- Aitkenhead, Decca (2011-04-03). "How can you be a militant atheist? It's like sleeping furiously". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 1 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-03.
- Alain de Botton to deliver the RIBA Trust Annual Lecture 2006, RIBA
- Alain de Botton, British Council Arts
- "Author of The Art of Travel talks with Robert Birnbaum", identitytheory.com
- "Interview with Alain de Botton", Writerspace
- "AOL interviews Alain de Botton about The Architecture of Happiness", lifestyle.aol.ca
- Nagy, Kim; "The Art of Connection – A Conversation with Alain de Botton", Wild River Review, November 19, 2007.
- The Architecture of Happiness, Official Website
- Ted.com, TED Talks | Alain De Botton: Atheism 2.0
- Ted.com, TED Talks | Alain De Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success
- "Alain de Botton: I would advise a friend to travel alone (metkere.com/en)". metkere.com.
- "Living Architecture".
- שלומציון קינן, ראיון עם אלן דה בוטון, "הארץ", 2007
- "Janet de Botton and family". The London Sunday Times. April 27, 2008.
- "Philosopher king: Alain de Botton finds glamour and drama in the world of work," Katy Guest, The Independent, 27 March 2009
- "Office affairs," Lynn Barber, The Guardian, Sunday 22 March 2009
- "On De Botton". The Irish Times. Mon, Apr 06, 2009.
- Barber, Lynn (2009-03-22). "Office affairs". The Guardian (London).
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- Alain de Botton official site
- Alain de Botton official Twitter
- Living Architecture
- Works by de Botton
- Compendium of reviews of The Consolations of Philosophy
- Archived web chat
- Interview with 3AM Magazine (2002)
- Alain de Botton at the Internet Movie Database
- Interview with Colin Marshall
- Alain de Botton at TedGlobal filmed on July 2009: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success
- Audio: Alain de Botton in conversation on the BBC World Service discussion show The Forum
- Video 1 hour The Pleasures and Sorrows of Workyoutube link