A phenomenology of fatigue under capitalism in Kafka, Carolina de Jesus and Linda Tirado

Priscila Figueiredo


The paper aims to establish a comparison –-from the perspective what I call a “phenomenology of fatigue” --among the first Kafka's novel, Amerika, written between 1912 and 1914, the narrative of the domestic maid Carolina Jesus “Quarto de despejo” (“The garbage room”), work of great success in the 1960s, as well as the ensay-testimony developed on a blog, “Hand to mouth”, already called "essay on poverty," written by Linda Tirado, an American ex-homeless. In Amerika, this "kind of a big company where redemption is to get a job", working relations are at the forefront, organizing the picaresque course of Karl, a course upside down, for he slips through several layers of society towards the lumpenproletariat and what seems in a first glance an enigmatically redeemer, Oklahoma Theater, whose configuration remained unfinished in an also unfinished novel. In what direction would go Karl? Always tired since dispatched first by the bourgeois parents in Germany and after by the capitalist uncle in New York –- inevitably over-exploited, he meets a kind of double in the student who occupies the balcony of an apartment next door. Prevented from sleeping on his long journey between the post of seller in a department store during the day and the studies in course of the night and until the dawn –-no having the hope that indeed he would be able to go beyond the position where he is--, indefectibly equipped by a bottle of coffee, the youngman provides Karl an image of your own situation, although worsened because the protagonist is once again unemployed, grappling with an informal occupation, uncertain and deeply oppressive, and having as bosses a prostitute and a thief. A leitmotif of the book is the mention of Karls' wish to rest, just get some sleep, which is being gradually denied him.
In other such books, the experience of fatigue is narrated in the first case by a domestic –an occupation which is a clear symptom of imperfect overcoming of slavery in Brazil. The account was published in a context of of the gradually growing in the country class struggle, which the military coup of 1964 would supress. In the other case, it is the testimony of a young married woman and mother, homeless on the occasion, one of the castaways of the 2008 crisis, torn between minijobs and evictions. In despite of diverse literary status of works or at least not equally stable –-and even Kafka's novel is diverse within the set of his work, being less allegorical and very close to Dickens--, it seems to underlie all of them an experience that no doubt is more continuous than discontinuous under capitalism in several configurations that it can take, monopolist, peripheral or neoliberal. This experience is represented by the already mentioned phenomenology of fatigue, which in fact includes what Jonathan Crary has called in the context of late capitalism "the end of sleep".

literature - Capitalism - work precarization - fatigue