cover image Passing Time: An Essay on Waiting

Passing Time: An Essay on Waiting

Andrea Köhler, trans. from the German by Michael Eskin. Upper West Side Philosophers, $17.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-935830-48-1

In these meditations, Swiss journalist Köhler argues that in an era where time is shaped by technology (the instantaneity of e-mail, the delays imposed by customer service “please wait” messages), “the art of waiting needs to be learned.” Her book is modest in size but abundant in content, and allusive but fully accessible. It insists on “the joyful aspects of waiting, slowness, and rest.” Kohler shares a relaxed, cosmopolitan erudition with the reader. A veritable pantheon of distinguished writers accompany her reflections, among them Samuel Beckett, Dante, Homer, and Marcel Proust. What waiting means, as it occurs at different times and in different places, is the governing question. Köhler observes waiting in the train station, in the doctor’s office, and in bureaucratic agencies. Going from the waiting of children for celebrations to the waiting of condemned prisoners for execution, she conveys a sense of both the gift and the anxiety of time. Along the way are enriching tidbits: an etymological digression into the word “wait” itself, a historical reminder of the appearance of a railroad timetable. What haunts this lively challenge to the passage of time is the “paradox of an overabundance of too little time” in contemporary life. [em](Feb.) [/em]