Telling a tale about the very nature of being
This article is from 2008.
From Mary Shelley’s The Last Man to I Am Legend, the idea of being the last person alive would seem to have an abiding fascination. Thomas Glavinic’s take on it, Night Work, tracks Jonas, who awakens one morning to discover he has, for reasons that are never made apparent, become the sole inhabitant of Vienna and, it appears, the world. At first incredulous, then lonely, fearful and desperate, he records his own voice and films himself performing increasingly bizarre actions in his sleep for company that serves only to heighten his paranoia. It is a stark, surreal, and unrelenting tale without a happy conclusion or reprieve from Jonas’ torment.
‘I think this is such a vital, big idea,’ says Glavinic, ‘an idea that will give many more writers the chance to show what being a human being means to them. Night Work is a book about fear, loneliness and love, and a book about being.’
But what is being? ‘First of all you need other people to find it out. When I wrote that book I was Jonas; I went through an empty world, being the last man myself, and it changed me, it was the biggest challenge in my writer’s life. And I probably should mention I am not as tough as Jonas; in this situation I would have been going nuts after some hours!’ A life without outside obligation and disturbance has its appeal, but as Jonas discovers, the threat to one’s being isn’t always external.
14 Aug (with GW Dahlquist), 4.30pm, £6 (£4).