Although it felt somewhat contrived and overdramatized, I think this chapter was inevitable. Somehow, we had to witness the shift from the frozen and uptight Sophie that said “Oh really?” to a woman composed of courage and passion. Even on the newspaper, she was unable to stand up for what she believed in or express any anger, she just sort of rolled over. The only roles that she had found before were the roles of seeker and victim.
Archive for the ‘ 5th Letters ’ Category
Yarostan’s Fifth letter is a strong argument against the institution of work. It is a criticism of the role of the knowledge worker in particular, and predates a body of work around these topics while maintaining a human touch around the topic. Bob Black (in)famously wrote an essay (which was also a presentation as provocation) called “The Abolition of Work.” While the author (and other people with a certain kind of fixation) might take the article as a literal argument against work, its real power is in asking orthogonal questions about the nature of labor and the project of Marxists who valorize labor itself, beyond any recognition of the (cough) use-value of the product of labor. The pro-work ideology is to assume work first of all – before the product of the work, before the worker, and before the impact (environmental, social, psychological, etc.) of that work. And the reactions to “The Abolition of Work” gave this thesis more energy than it probably should have had.
This chapter was my first introduction to the book, brought in as an excerpt to an anarchist reading group. I read this letter that time without any real context to the rest of the story. I remember not really understanding why the people in the garage – Sophia especially – were having such dramatic responses. I might make a similar critique even upon this read, and I’ll expand later on that.
Although some of this letter recounts present-day events, most of it is a recollection of a time eleven years prior, in the garage where Sabina and Tina were living. There are two points I want to make in regard to Sophia’s present-day description before delving into the meaty substance of the garage days.
Lately, I have been reading books about happiness and money. I suppose that I would classify them as self-help books, but they are less pop psychology and more of a cross-section of case studies and personal experience. In many cases, the topic of these books is a person’s “rebirth” when they wake up from chasing a material oriented life.
These are generally pretty wealthy people, but one thing stands true, money really never does make anyone happier. In many of the cases, it takes some moment of awakening in which they realize that they must reprioritize.
It is sort of funny to see this theme pop up in Letters. Of course, Yarostan and Mirna do not take their pursuit of material possessions very far and they are not wealthy. A pair of curtains, a bedspread and a baby carriage with a couple of swanky outfits do not exactly make them big spenders.
In Sophia’s 4th letter we see that the letters between the two are beginning to concretely alter Sophia’s perspectives. In Yarostan’s 5th letter we see the change in him as well. His tone softens somewhat and he mentions “critical appreciation,” telling Sophia that he sees these letters as an expression of friendship and not an attack.
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