May 25, 2024

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A review of Elias Hirschel's novel “Content”

A review of Elias Hirschel's novel “Content”

WOh, no generation has been as good at cleverly reducing trends, moods, and entire eras into memorable images as millennials. Among them is also the Austrian poet, musician and satirical author Elias Hirschel, born in 1994. How well he mastered this form of pressure can be seen in the following vignette about the absurdity of the coal era, which has destroyed the climate – and thus the future. When she sees a huge abandoned excavator with bucket wheels, the anonymous narrator of “Content” thinks: “A machine for extracting coal from the ground needed to make the steel of which the machine is made.” That this probably doesn't explain everything about the age of fossils isn't very important given the nice point.

The fact that the next generation, which had the gift of digital display but no future, was not happier, quite the opposite, is the content of this novel. And this is not only due to the massive undermining of the entire region by mining, which leads to regular earthquakes, the submergence of entire buildings and floods when the “eternal pumps” fail (the book, you can say, was written as part of a city clerk’s grant in the Ruhr area). It is because capitalist ideology has not only been corrected in the Internet era, but has taken a good step back towards predatory behaviour. What the digital economy and its largely redundant “services” produce is above all satisfaction (“content” is what that ultimately means), although the cynical alternative, hate, is never far away: the last addictive substance. In an alienated present. The first-person narrator and her colleagues Marta and Karin are among the precarious workers in the troll and content factories that produce clickbait on the assembly line.

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