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Alain de Botton

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He writes on Love, he runs a School of Life where the world exchanges emotional intelligence, and he’s throwing open the world’s best architecture for everyone to experience through Living Architecture. Alain de Botton, philosopher and changemaker, isn’t an ordinary man. His latest book, The Course of Love, makes you find again the beauty of marriage when you’re too beaten and broken by the mundane, and gives an insight almost obvious and yet oblivious to us in the way we go about our lives. Here’s getting to the Botton-line.

What made you write The Course of Love—it seems like a natural next to the Essays in Love [1993], but comes after long.
Many of our ideas on love are generated by the films we see and the novels we read. I also feel that a lot of the reason why we find relationships difficult is that the fictional representations of love with which we are surrounded don't accurately reflect the reality of relationships— leaving many of us puzzled and disturbed by what goes in our love lives. So I wanted to write a novel that would normalise some of our troubles and illuminate the sources of trouble between couples. Ultimately, I wanted my book to be useful to the reader in negotiating the challenges of relationships.

It seems like your analytical observations from life were ready before the story itself. Did your protagonists Rabih and Kirsten come later, to put your studies in relatable perspective? Why did you choose fiction?
We humans are a mixture of the emotional and the rational; and I chose to write my book as a novel in order to engage with the emotional dimension. I wanted to produce a book that would make the reader think, but also feel. I wanted—at points—that the reader would cry and also laugh; all with the overall purpose of learning and understanding more about relationships.

How much of you is in the book?
It is all me, but that doesn't mean that the events described are those I have necessarily gone through. I like to say that the book is emotionally autobiographical but not practically so. The beauty of fiction is that it allows you to stretch possibilities beyond those that you actually lived through. How boring if you could only write about what actually happened to you!
You write about the course of a marriage that started out in conventional courtship. What about one that has its seed in circumstance or impulse?
I wanted to write a novel about a couple who get married before they've quite understood what marriage involves. Their ability to navigate a marriage comes way after—a good decade after—the date of the actual wedding. This seems to me to be often the case. We get the hang of life long after the time when it would have been useful to master this tricky exercise.

Do we always need a castle, a hotel or a couple of drinks—as in your book—to realise the best in a relationship after all? Do you then agree that the drudge of domesticity, by its nature, is dreadful? 
We don’t go into relationships ready to perceive domestic issues as important potential flashpoints to look out for and pay attention to. We don’t acknowledge how much it may end up mattering whether we can maturely resolve issues around the eating of toast in the bed or the conundrum of whether it is stylish, or a touch pretentious, to give a cocktail party.


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