Automata: Professional Lives and the Time of the Contingent
Kostas Peroulis’s collection of short stories Automata (2015) consists of ten short stories that narrate the experience of ten different characters involved in differentkinds of labor. The stories’ characters constitute the book’s labor force and have afoothold in all sectors of economy: the primary sector (agriculture), the secondary sector (industrial production) and the tertiary sector (services, including sex work). The automatisation and repetition that define the work experience of Peroulis's unnamed characters also define their present while the context of the Greek crisis and its social and political effects lurk in the background. This essay reads the characters’relation to labour at a time of historical contingency that is well beyond the austerity measures and what is generally called the financial crisis. I argue that the stories map the experience of the contingent in contemporary Greece as Peroulis’s text focuses onthe minutiae of the characters’ professional lives. The details of their labour reveal the condition of contingency which becomes dominant in a literary text that, as this essay argues, returns to the subject, and thus, to the modern.