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Feuilleton Literatur 16. November 2016

Literarisches Sixpack mit Robert Wringham

Eine kahle Mitarbeiterkantine, am Fließband und billig produzierte Sandwiches mit Analogkäse und ständig nörgelnde Arbeitskollegen. So oder nicht zwingend so drastisch sieht der Alltag einiger Angestellter in der „westlichen“ Welt aus.

Laut dem Autor und britischem Humorist Robert Wringham hassen 80% ihren Job und verbringen trotzdem stolze 87 000 Stunden bei der Arbeit, bevor sie sterben. Doch es kommt noch schlimmer: Einige von uns sterben sogar bei der Arbeit am Fließband oder auf dem Bürostuhl. Zudem verbringen wir durchschnittlich 5 000 Stunden in Zügen und Bussen und Staus, um zur Arbeit zu kommen, so Wringham. Man muss nicht gebildet oder besonders smart sein, um sich die Frage zu stellen, warum eigentlich all das?

Auch Robert beschäftigt sich mit dieser Frage in seinem aktuellen Buch „Ich bin raus: Wege aus der Arbeit, dem Konsum und der Verzweiflung“Es ist Zeit zu kündigen, seinen Träumen zu folgen und dem konventionellen Erwerbsleben den Rücken zu kehren. Alternativen gibt es ja zahlreiche… Getreu der Lebensphilosophie des Zauberkünstlers Houdini: „In meinem Kopf existiert nur ein einziger Gedanke: Ich will frei sein! Ich will mich befreien! Und dieses Berauschten an der Freiheit, am Erfolg, ist etwas Erhabenes.“

Es ist mal wieder an der Zeit für eine neue Folge des „Literarischen Sixpacks“ auf Blog Bohème. Diese Woche mit Robert Wringham. Here we go!

1.) How to be free by Tom Hodgkinson

Essayist and idler Tom Hodgkinson delivers a treatise on how to live a fun and thoughtful life of freedom. Boycott the supermarkets, he says, quit your job, share your home with other people, reject government by refusing to vote, leave the city in favour of the countryside. These are not so much commandments as gentle and spirited reminders that there are valid alternatives to trudging along on the school-career-shopping treadmill with everybody else.

2.) At the Existentialist Cafe: freedom, being and apricot cocktails by Sarah Bakewell

Existentialism is a practical philosophy for life and the only real way to understand Existentialists is through a good biography. Luckily, Sarah Bakewell has written a very good biography indeed, telling the story of Existentialists major and minor, beginning with their predecessors, the Phenomenologists, and through to the deaths of Sartre and de Beauvoir. There’s a particularly beautiful chapter about life in occupied France, serving to illustrate Bakewell’s observation that ordinary people must consistently find the courage and methods to preserve their identities in harsh social systems maintained by powerful lunatics.

3.) Among the Bohemians by Virginia Nicholson

This enjoyable history book follows the lives of various Bohemians, bums and beatniks of the 19th and early-20th centuries: people like Vanessa Bell, Augustus John and George Orwell. Some of these people lived homeless or in small rented rooms or in covered wagons so they could lead the lives of poets and artists. It shows that a life outside the secure and comfortable mainstream is possible, that integrity is its own reward and that wealth is not required for a life of parties and fun. Nicholson’s cast of historic characters all embraced Bohemia instead of Bourgeois comforts and flourished to varying degrees of success, but even those who “failed” or died young at least lived instead of zombieing along with the money crowd.

4.) My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

A funny and cosy memoir about young Gerald and his family and their time together in luxurious unemployment on Corfu. Durrell didn’t go to school until he was 13 and none of his family worked in any conventional way, but none of this harmed Gerald’s development or affected his family’s livelihood. We are shown the value of liberty, that when stripped of the obligations of school and work, we do not become slobs or wastrels but reconnect with nature and take to writing novels, exploring, walking, throwing parties, playing games and basking in the sunshine. It didn’t do the Durrells any harm.

5.) Notes from Overground by Tiresias

The pseudonymous author spent many years commuting by train between his Oxford home and his London job, hated every moment and resentful that a thinking, loving human being capable of great things should have to live in such an unpleasant and transient manner. To rebel, he kept a “premeditated notebook” of his thoughts on the train. It’s a plaintive cry on behalf of commuters everywhere. Tiresias wants to be freed from commuting and encourages us all to notice the true, screaming Hell of it.

6.) The Secret Life of Houdini by William Kalush and Larry Sloman

For a long while, I’ve held a theory that Houdini’s art wasn’t just stage conjuring but a metaphor for life: that anything can be escaped if you so wish it and when you can apply yourself. This book with its unique insight on Houdini’s life and craft convinced me of it. I think Houdini tapped into the collective unconscious: he performed during a time of profound technological and social change during which people were cornered into new rather tedious kinds of work. In escaping boxes and handcuffs, Houdini flirted with the escape fantasy of his audience. We all want to be free, so we must first escape.

© Stuart Crawford Photography
© Stuart Crawford Photography

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