The Discovery of Slowness by Sten Nadolny


The Discovery of Slowness in a biographical novel about a British naval officer Sir John Franklin and through his life, a reflection on slowness. John Franklin is probably the most famous for his last voyage into the Arctic, when his ships, the Erebus and the Terror, as well as the entire crew, were lost. At the beginning of the book we learn about young John being very slow. He isn't able to play ball with other children, because the ball is too fast and he can't catch it. Instead he holds the rope. He can do it well. He's able to stand in one place for quite a long time. Even though his piers tease and bully him because of his slowness, he refuses to conform to their ways. Instead he studies hard, reads a lot and thinks. He even starts formulating possible answers in his head, he collects useful phrases, which he writes down in a notebook, and he keeps asking people to repeat their questions. In the end he manages to turn his weakness into an advantage.

What Franklin wants the most is to sail the seas and discover a place where there’s no rule of time, no hours and days. He finds it in the Arctic. Where the sun doesn’t set in the summer, there’s a land which isn’t governed by time. Absolute silence, absolute timelessness and infinite calm seem to be a perfect context for his slowness. Time is a manmade entity. Together with progress and productivity (another manmade terms) it rules the world. Time wants fast actions, it wants speed. At a certain point Franklin observed how people used the phrase “I have no time” more often. They needed speed to be efficient, to reach their victories. There are no such things as victory or loss, Franklin reflects; they are terms, connected with speed and time, which were invented by man.

I wish this book was read by my ex-boss … as well as all the maniacs speeding along the motorways. However I think they are too nervous or too addicted to speed to manage it. We live in a society governed by speed; we glorify fast people in sports, careers and life in general. What has to happen for us to slow down? The writing reflects the content. It’s slow and meditative, at times lyrical. The story itself moves slowly, like arctic ice which needs a lot of time to form.

The Discovery of Slowness closes with John Franklin’s last voyage into the Arctic, where in 1847 he died. After three years trapped in the ice, his crew died and his ships sank. What got them was lead poisoning, scurvy, unbearably long winter … and time.

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Odkritje počasnosti je biografski roman o britanskem pomorščaku Siru Johnu Franklinu, opis njegovega življenja pa predstavlja ozadje za razmišljanje o počasnosti. Johna Franklina verjetno še najbolj poznamo po njegovem zadnjem potovanju v arktične vode. Ekspedicija je zahtevala življenja posadke, kakor tudi obe ladji, ki sta se po večletni ujetosti v led, potopili. Na začetku knjige spoznamo malega Johna, ki je prepočasen, da bi se z drugimi otroki igral z žogo. Žoga je enostavno prehitra, da bi jo lahko ujel. Namesto tega drži vrv. To mu gre dobro od rok. Ure in ure lahko stoji mirno na enem mestu. Čeprav ga vrstniki zbadajo zaradi počasnosti, se ne prilagodi njihovi hitrosti, niti se ne ukloni njihovim pričakovanjem. Namesto tega se pridno uči, veliko bere in razmišlja. Izmišljuje so možne odgovore na vprašanja, zbira uporabne fraze, ki si jih zapisuje v zvezek, v pogovoru pa vedno prosi sogovornika, da povedano ponovi. Na koncu mu uspe slabost spremeniti v prednost.

Franklin si najbolj želi pluti po morju in najti kraj na zemlji, kjer čas ne vlada, kjer ni ur in dni, kar naposled najde na Arktiki. Tam, kjer sonce poleti ne zaide, je dežela, ki je čas ne priganja. Popolna tišina, popolno brezčasje in neskončen mir se zdijo popolno okolje za njegovo počasnost. Čas so si izmislili ljudje. Skupaj z napredkom in storilnostjo (tudi ta dva pojma so si izmislili ljudje) čas vlada svetu. Čas zahteva hitro dogajanje, hitrost. Nekoč Franklin opazi, da ljudje vedno bolj pogosto uporabljajo frazo “Nimam časa”. Potrebujejo hitrost, da so učinkoviti, da dosežejo svoje zmage. Franklin razmišlja, da zmaga in poraz ne obstajata. Sta pojma, ki sta povezana s hitrostjo in časom, vse skupaj pa si je izmislil človek.

To knjigo bi morala prebrati moja bivša šefica … pa tudi vsi manijaki, ki divjajo po avtocestah, čeprav se mi zdi, da so preveč nervozni in zasvojeni s hitrostjo, da bi dojeli kaj berejo. Živimo v družbi, ki ji vlada hitrost, poveličujemo hitre ljudi, ne glede na to ali gre za šport, karierno pot ali življenje samo. Me prav zanima kaj bi se nam moralo zgoditi, da bi se vsaj malo upočasnili. Knjiga je napisana tako, da odseva vsebino. Besedilo je počasno in razmišljujoče, mestoma lirično. Zgodba se odvija počasi, kot arktični led, ki potrebuje ogromno časa, da nastane.

Odkritje počasnosti se sklene s Franklinovo zadnjo odpravo v Arktiko, kjer je leta 1847 umrl. Po treh letih ujetosti v led, so mornarji drug za drugim umrli, ladji pa sta se potopili. Zastrupitev s svincem, skorbut in nenormalno dolga zima … pa čas tudi … vse to jih je stalo življenja.


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