The Fatigue of Being Lazy (2020) by Gianfranco Marrone – Book review

The Fatigue of Being Lazy (2020) by Gianfranco Marrone – Book review

The fatigue of being lazy is a book founded on the paradox according to which to be lazy it is necessary to work hard and make an intellectual and physical effort.


Gianfranco Marrone, Professor of Semiotics at the University of Palermo, author of the book The Fatigue of Being Lazy, gives us a text on laziness, an attitude severely criticized by western society. The release of the book during the recovery phase after the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic seems paradoxically fitting, since, closed in our homes, we experienced a period of ‘forced leisure’ which put us in front of the difficulty of stay still.

The art of doing nothing is the central nucleus of the book, a freedom that in society is attributed to those who resist social duties and rebel against the frenetic rhythms of modern life, thus renouncing the industriousness and productivity required in favor of aspiration to rest. But this craving, this right to freedom of being able to do nothing actually involves a greater effort than one might believe. Being lazy is only a few, it requires a long learning job, since the lazy, or the one who seems to do nothing, in reality does not do what others expect from him and works hard to manufacture the conditions that allow him to defend this inertia.

But what is laziness? Could it be a form of idleness?

Laziness has a long history that has actually crossed over with idleness. In fact, explains Marrone quoting Bertrand Russell, ‘idleness is essential for civilization’ and is not a vice, just as laziness is seen. Idleness is an attitude of culture of the wise, which prefers the care of the spirit not necessarily involving inoperativeness. In modern times, on the contrary, idleness has been considered a malpractice and assimilated to laziness.

The anthropological and philosophical history of laziness is drawn through the reflections of numerous philosophers and showing the differences in the concept of the term between Western and Asian culture. In Japanese Zen Buddhism, for example, this’ idleness’ is interpreted as a form of devotion to the world, an activity permeated by art and beauty and, citing the Chinese writer Lin Yutang, ‘culture would be a product of ‘leisure’.

The author reconstructs the semantic area of ​​the term laziness using sayings and proverbs, coming to deepen Russian tales and fairy tales. In these characters come into play such as Ivan Gončarov’s Oblòmov, considered ‘the famous lazy literary’, an idle and inactive protagonist who lazily seems to actually conceal subversion behavior against nineteenth-century Russian capitalist society.

The narrative analysis does not stop at the Russian fairy tale, but delves into popular culture characters such as Snoopy and Donald Duck. The latter, who aspires to rest all day on his hammock, is instead forced to work constantly in order to conquer his beloved moment of relaxation. And here is the moral return. Here is the paradox again. Rest is the object desired by the friendly duck, a utopia, because to get it he is forced to toil.

So the reader is finally confronted with the question:

According to Roland Barthes, laziness consists in breaking time as often as possible, in diversifying it, seeking this vice in small actions and diversions that can upset the rhythm of existence by breaking up the routine. So, today, we can practice laziness and take back this freedom in small doses, even just starting from the simple action of preparing a coffee.