Lee Rourke’s top 10 books about boredom

In the Guardian:

“Boredom has always fascinated me. I suppose it is the Heideggerian sense of ‘profound boredom’ that intrigues me the most. What he called a ‘muffling fog’ that swathes everything – including boredom itself – in apathy. Revealing ‘being as a whole’: that moment when we realise everything is truly meaningless, when everything is pared down and all we are confronted with is a prolonged, agonising nothingness. Obviously, we cannot handle this conclusion; it suspends us in constant dread. In my fictions I am concerned with two archetypes only, both of them suspended in this same dread: those who embrace boredom and those who try to fight it. The quotidian tension, the violence that this suspension and friction creates naturally filters itself into my work.”

1. William Lovell by Ludwig Tieck

From the German Romantic literary cannon sprang this extraordinary yet – these days – relatively unread novel. Within its pages existence and being are seen as a perpetual spiral of boredom. William Lovell, the novel’s eponymous anti-hero, stands on the peripheries of society waiting for a world to satisfy him completely. Of course, it doesn’t and nor can it, creating a wonderful tension throughout. This is one of our first novels solely about boredom – a novel that was possibly too modern for its own time and a perfect starting point for this list.

2. Mercier and Camier by Samuel Beckett

Beckett’s boredom was an ugly boredom. Endlessly repeated. And through this ugliness, this grotesque repetition a strange, eerie comedy was born. Anything written by Beckett is wholly spellbinding to read and this lesser read masterpiece perfectly sums up the continuing theme of boredom throughout his oeuvre. Mercier and Camier is a short novel of chance meetings and missings – a theme repeated by Beckett almost mercilessly. The banal that he unearths and reuses in his fictions gives it a sense of post-history, a sense that his voice is appearing from elsewhere, something other.

3. The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa

For me this simply has to be the definitive book on boredom. I sometimes forget I am breathing when I find myself lost in passages from it, so engrossingly beautiful are they to read.