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Ode aan de arbeid by Alain de Botton
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Ode aan de arbeid (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Alain de Botton, Jelle Noorman (Translator)

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8032511,373 (3.51)29
Member:Jordaan
Title:Ode aan de arbeid
Authors:Alain de Botton (Author)
Other authors:Jelle Noorman (Translator)
Info:Atlas (2009)
Collections:Your library, Natuur en Wetenschap, Verenigd Koninkrijk
Rating:***1/2
Tags:arbeid, werk

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The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain De Botton (2009)

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English (23)  Dutch (2)  All languages (25)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
In Fates worse than death. An autobiographical collage Kurt Vonnegut wrote that a beginning writer should be on the look out for unusual fields, technology, occupations or cultural niches, which may harbour a treasure trove of unusual vocabulary and usage of language. Alain de Botton is hardly a new writer, but The pleasures and sorrows of work seems to be a typical illustration of Vonnegut's tip.

In The pleasures and sorrows of work De Botton collects 10 essays about a very wide variety of topics: (1) Cargo Ship Spotting, (2) Logistics, (3) Biscuit Manufacture, (4) Career Counselling, (5) Rocket Science, (6) Painting, (7) Transmission Engineering, (8) Accountancy, (9) Entrepreneurship, and (10) Aviation.

One typical problem of this choice, is that few readers of essays may have rather little interest in any of these topics. Another problem is that, while reading, one gets the feeling that these are not essays per se but rather pieces of journalistic work. Then, too, as journalism, they would be a tat too literary. Each of the essays does introduce a wealth of vocabulary and particular language use. Besides, De Botton treats every topic with a broad sweep of elegance and seriousness, oddly juxtaposing literary erudition and matter-of-fact knowlegeability about such plebescite topics.

The pleasures and sorrows of work was published in 2009, and it will come as no surprise that A Week at the Airport was published in the same year. These two works are clearly related, in the choice of topic area, scope and style.

For readers who are interested in mastery of language in ususual areas, or faithful fans of Alain de Botton, The pleasures and sorrows of work may have some appeal. Incidentally, the essays are not a reflection on our own work or the psychology of a working (wo-)man's life. They are rather descriptive features of an odd-ball variety of occupations. ( )
  edwinbcn | Apr 22, 2016 |
Interesting exploration into the different kinds of work people do, and how meaning is made through our work. ( )
  sbsolter | Feb 6, 2014 |
philosophy, work, essays, ( )
  pewterbreath | Nov 5, 2013 |
A desultory meditation, by turns erudite and sardonic. De Botton uses the examples of ten occupations as entry points into associative digressions, but he never gives the workers themselves any voice. While this oversight limits the scope of what he can accomplish in a work that he himself commends to his readers as "reportage," the altar of self-conscious melancholy whereupon the Other is sacrificed proves worthy of contemplation.

And now, a digression of my own.

De Botton notes that he gave a lecture at California State University, Bakersfield, and that the lecture was "notable for its near-unanimous absence of attendees." This observation neither surprises me nor strikes me as dishonest because I am, regrettably, from Bakersfield and, regrettably, well acquainted with what constitutes its milieu (if courting Sarah Palin to speak at "conferences," MONSTER TRUCK PANDEMONIUM THIS SATURDAY!SATURDAY!SATURDAY!, and a fast food chain restaurant on every corner can even be said to qualify as a milieu). What does surprise and strike me as dishonest is that De Botton then claims to get lost when he leaves Bakersfield. Seriously? There're basically two ways into this shit city. Granted, they pretty much look the same, what with their low desert scrub and billboards promising a better life in the military; however, if you've mistaken them for something else, I gotta say that you've seriously underestimated the gravity of your situation and I, therefore, question your intelligence and the veracity thereof. Now, my problem with his claim is that he ends up in nearby Mojave as a result, where he is summarily cussed by a native (THAT I buy). And, frankly, I'm cool with it because De Botton has shown himself to be a tourist that is too clever by half.
( )
  KidSisyphus | Apr 5, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
added by gordogan | editBooksa (Jun 24, 2009)
 
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Epigraph
House-building, measuring, sawing the boards,
Blacksmithing, glass-blowing, nail-making, coopering, tin-roofing, shingle-dressing,
Ship-joining, dock-building, fish-curing, flagging of sidewalks by flaggers,
The pump, the pile-driver, the great derrick, the coal-kiln and brick-kiln,
Coal mines and all that is down there, the lamps in the darkness, echoes, songs, what meditations...

-- from Walt Whitman, "A Song for Occupations"
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for Samuel
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Imagine a journey across on the of the great cities of the modern world.
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Nevertheless, it was in a worrying state. Much of its exposed piping was rusting in the sea air, and a large cloth had been used to bandage up the base of a cooling tower. It seemed a particular folly that the English had been allowed to involve themselves with fission technology, for what people could be less appropriate to toil in this precise and rule-bound industry, given their instinctive distrust of authority, their love of irony and their aversion to bureaucratic procedure. It was evident that the field should more wisely have been left entirely in the hands of the Teutonic races.
Now I began to see the matter differently: it seemed obvious that no order, however lucrative, would actually render these women available to buyers, so their presence on the stands took on a more poignant and commercially effective dimension. Their real function was to serve as a reminder of the unavailability of beauty to an overwhelmingly male, middle-aged and harried-looking base of customers. The women were goading the men to lay aside all romantic ambitions and to focus instead on their business and technological agendas. Rather than seductresses, they were in truth spurs to sublimation, and symbols of everything that the buyers would be better off if they forgot about in order to concentrate on the thousands of pieces of precisely engineered equipment arranged around the halls.
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Alain De Botton explores the world of offices and factories, convention halls, outdoor installations and transportation routes. He spends time in and around some less familiar work environments and discloses both the sheer strangeness and beauty of the places where people spend their working lives. Along the way, De Botton uncovers some of the most compelling questions that we rarely make time to consider: Why do we do it?… (more)

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