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Alain de Botton

  • English writer
  • Born December 20, 1969

Alain de Botton, FRSL (; born 20 December 1969) is a Swiss-born British philosopher and author. His books discuss various contemporary subjects and themes, emphasizing philosophy's relevance to everyday life. 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). He co-founded The School of Life in 2008 and Living Architecture in 2009. In 2015, he was awarded "The Fellowship of Schopenhauer", an annual writers' award from the Melbourne Writers Festival, for this work.


I was uncomfortable writing fiction. My love was the personal essay, rather than the novel.




It's very hard to respect people on holiday - everybody looks so silly at the beach, it makes you hate humanity - but when you see people at their work they elicit respect, whether it's a mechanic, a stonemason or an accountant.




The arrogance that says analysing the relationship between reasons and causes is more important than writing a philosophy of shyness or sadness or friendship drives me nuts. I can't accept that.




I am conscious of trying to stretch the boundaries of non-fiction writing. It's always surprised me how little attention many non-fiction writers pay to the formal aspects of their work.




All tours are filled with humiliation. My publisher once hired a private jet to fly me to a venue where 1,000 people were waiting. It almost bankrupted him.




There are people who say, 'Oh this guy is quite thick.' I think the reason is that, increasingly, I don't mind being simple in terms of literary expression. Others say, 'No, no, no. He went to Cambridge. He got a good degree. He must be Einstein.'




What is fascinating about marriage is why anyone wants to get married.




I learnt to stop fantasising about the perfect job or the perfect relationship because that can actually be an excuse for not living.




I was foreign and Jewish, with a funny name, and was very small and hated sport, a real problem at an English prep school. So the way to get round it was to become the school joker, which I did quite effectively - I was always fooling around to make the people who would otherwise dump me in the loo laugh.




I know a lot about writing, but I don't know much about how other industries work. I've tried to use my naivety to my advantage.




I feel that the great challenge of our time is the communication of ideas.




I was a very un-literary child, which might reassure parents with kids who don't read.




There are few more effective ways to promote tolerance between suspicious neighbours than to force them to eat supper together.




A city like London is sociable in a sense that there are people gathering in bars and restaurants, concerts and lectures. Yet you can partake of all these experiences and never say hello to anyone new. And one of the things that all religions do is take groups of strangers into a space and say it is OK to talk to each other.




Many moments in religion seem attractive to me even though I can't believe in any of it.




I assemble my ideas in pieces on a computer file, then gradually find a place for them on a piece of scaffolding I erect.




We are certainly influenced by role models, and if we are surrounded by images of beautiful rich people, we will start to think that to be beautiful and rich is very important - just as in the Middle Ages, people were surrounded by images of religious piety.




On paper, being good sounds great but a lot depends on the atmosphere of the workplace or community we live in. We tend to become good or bad depending on the cues sent out within a particular space.




When work is not going well, it's useful to remember that our identities stretch beyond what is on the business card, that we were people long before we became workers - and will continue to be human once we have put our tools down forever.




My greatest joy comes from creativity: from feeling that I have been able to identify a certain aspect of human nature and crystallise a phenomenon in words.




I am always anxious.




I've had my successes and failures. I know many academics in my field loathe me. I've come to loathe them back, as it seems only polite to do so. But at heart it's absurd; we should band together against the big common enemies.




Status anxiety definitely exists at a political level. Many Iraqis were annoyed with the US essentially for reasons of status: for not showing them respect, for humiliating them.




Virtue is its own reward. We only invented concepts like heaven and hell to describe how we feel. We don't feel good doing bad and it's nice to help someone.




I think people want to get married to end their emotional uncertainty. In a way, they want to end powerful feelings, or certainly the negative ones.




My father paid for my education; then he made it clear that I was on my own.




In Britain, because I live here, I can also run into problems of envy and competition. But all this is just in a day's work for a writer. You can't put stuff out there without someone calling you a complete fool. Oh, well.




When I see someone like Richard Dawkins, I see my father. I grew up with that. I'm basically the child of Richard Dawkins.




I am not a foodie, thank goodness. I will eat pretty much anything. A lot of my friends are getting incredibly fussy about food and I see it as a bit of an affliction.




As for despair, it comes about when I have been a fool and hate myself and despair of my personality. I am prone to gloom, but not depression as such.




My writing always came out of a very personal place, out of an attempt to stay sane.




When I'm writing, I write all day. Other days, I sit around thinking. Or I run around from one meeting to another, out in the world. It varies, and I like that.




As an atheist, I think there are lots of things religions get up to which are of value to non-believers - and one of those things is trying to be a bit better than we normally manage to be.




Kant and Hegel are interesting thinkers. But I am happy to insist that they are also terrible writers.




Booksellers are the most valuable destination for the lonely, given the numbers of books that were written because authors couldn't find anyone to talk to.




I always feel that I am writing for somebody who is bright but impatient. Someone who doesn't have unlimited time. That is my sense of the reader. So I have got to get to the point.



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