The empire of Alain de Botton

21d5ea5d-c9dd-4b69-a471-ce3f4ea70e44Sam Knight at the Financial Times:

So why do you infuriate so many people? I asked. We were back in the lecture theatre, alone. De Botton had just led a quick tour of the Rijksmuseum’s “Gallery of Honour”, followed by television cameras. Like many of his most ambitious projects, Art is Therapy has received some poisonous reviews. “De Botton’s evangelising and his huckster’s sincerity make him the least congenial gallery guide imaginable,” wrote the Guardian’s art critic Adrian Searle. Such hostility has stalked de Botton since his breakout hit How Proust Can Change Your Life was published in 1997. “This reviewer was, unfortunately, intensely irritated by many aspects of de Botton’s thesis, finding it superficial, often contrived and at times patronising,” wrote Teresa Waugh in the Spectator. That morning, a Dutch journalist had turned to me and said: “I suppose he sees himself as a modern Socrates, going around and annoying everybody.”

Early negative reviews of his work, by Proust professors and philosophy dons, devastated him, admitted de Botton. “It was very surprising and upsetting. Then my wife, who is very wise, said to me, ‘It’s obvious, this is a fight.’ This is a turf war, and the battle is about what culture should mean to us.”

more here.