Tuesday, 20 October 2009


Extract from Agota Kristof, Yesterday:

Today I start the idiotic routine again. I get up at five o'clock in the morning, I wash, I shave, I make some coffee, I set off, I run to the main square, I get on the bus, I close my eyes, and the full horror of my present life stares me in the face.
The bus stops three times. Once in the town and once in each village we pass through. In the fourth village is the factory in which I have worked for ten years.
A clockwork factory.
I lay my face in my hands as if I were sleeping, but I do it to hide my tears. I cry. I've had enough of the grey overall, I've had enough of clocking in, I've had enough of starting up my machine. I've had enough of work.
I put on the grey overall, I clock in, I go into the workshop.
The machines are running. Including mine. I only have to sit in front of it, take the parts, place them in the machine, press the pedal.
The clockwork factory is a huge building that dominates the valley. All the people who work there live in the same village except the odd few, like me, who come from town. There aren't many of us, the bus is almost empty.
The factory produces spare parts for other factories. Not one of us could assemble a whole watch.
I have to pierce a hole in a particular part, the same hole in the same part for the last ten years. That is the sum total of our work. Place a part in the machine, press on the pedal.
This work enables us to earn just enough to eat, to live somewhere and, above all, to be able to come to work the next day.
Whether it is dark or light outside, the neon lights are on all the time in the huge workshop. Soothing music is piped out of loudspeakers. The management think the staff work better with a bit of music.
There is this little chap, one of the workers, who sells sachets of white powder, tranquilisers which the village chemist makes up especially for us. I don't know what it is, I buy some occasionally. With this powder, the day passes more quickly, you feel a little less unhappy. The powder doesn't cost much, almost all the workers use it, the management turns a blind eye, and the village chemist makes a killing.
Sometimes there are outbursts; a woman gets up, shouts:
'I can't take any more!'
They take her away, work continues, they tell us:
'It's nothing, her nerves are shot.'