If Boredom is a Luxury, Literature is the Price

/ by Maxime Coton

In a culture of distraction, literature occupies an incongruous place, as long as the availability that it requires (author and readers bound by this demand) does not seem to take into account the rhythm which, all around, acts as a norm. A profusion of content, an abundance of links that disperse under cover of embracing the complexity of the world.

 

Thus, literature (by its very nature and whatever the purpose it proposes to deploy) reinvents the motives of its resistance to the civilization in which it has always embedded itself. An ancestral objection pocket, but of a new color.

 

Previously, we read fiction to dream. Henceforth, one could say that one reads in order to have the right to be bored, that is to say, to get out of this logic of optimization of our beings, out of the profitability of our existences. Even in the leisure world, the maximization of contents can be seen, not as a rapid escape from a competitive daily life, but as a prolongation of it in intimate spheres, once impervious to consumerist logic. When homogenization of a persona supposed to represent us socially is a necessity, when narrative efficiency—in the street, newspapers, TV series—is a duty, when obsession of truth polarizes our entire vocabulary, the gray area of boredom becomes a political weapon.

 

An elitist weapon, certainly: Derisory, perhaps. An asymmetrical weapon, too. Indeed, if it is obvious that boredom—since it is not suffered, by elderly or unemployed people, for example—is a luxury for the one who chooses to be engulfed, what about for the one who spends his time producing it, the inventor? In other words, is it possible to make a profession of writing? And in the current context, what can be the writer's job?

 

I'm not a professional writer. Like many other authors, I do not earn my living with my words. And if, when I was a teenager, I wanted to become one, I look at this fantasy today with more circumspection.

 

In the Francophone cultural world, the romantic image of a pure author, inspired by the Muses and insensitive to the vicissitudes of existence, seems to serve the literary structures in place and those who wish to be part of it, seeking a symbolic recognition which has no price. (For a reason that I do not understand, the social status of the writer is placed high in the collective unconscious, well above the place occupied by artists from other disciplines.)

 

A corollary of this clichéd image is that, if one does not speak of the economic anchoring of the writer in the cultural industry, it is because he surpasses the market, he who is visited by success and, therefore, opulence. The reality of most authors, however, is quite different. And what should be the prerogative of a noble soul, often reveals itself to be a veil of shame.

 

Indeed, in a world in which all resources—whether natural, human or social—have to be exploited, how can we confess that we spend our time contemplating reality in its complexity, without expecting anything in return but a hypothetical part of eternity, sacrificing many shares of our existence (in terms of wealth, relationship, health) at the temple of words?

 

But, of course, if writing does not guarantee de facto a decent salary for those who decide to devote their souls to it, and this does not prevent them from persevering in their slow obstinacy, they must find elsewhere their livelihood, without sacrificing their intellectual means and their sense of wonder.

 

There lies their only salvation, preserving them, on the one hand, from a self-referential art (appanage of an elite whose cultural and symbolic references they share) and on the other hand, preserving them from cultural commentaries which produce content to justify their existence.

 

Thus, resisting the notion of professionalization (and what it implies in a neo-liberal world that transforms beings into brands), while maintaining a deep commitment to literary language, becomes a necessity, if one wants to preserve the boredom which elevates all of us.

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Maxime Coton

was born in 1986. Devotes himself to literature in different forms and media, because books are needed but not enough.