Last year, Corinne Maier, an ennui-prone economic consultant for Electricité de France in Paris, published a manifesto declaring the merits of showing up to one’s job—but only pretending to do any work there. Bonjour Paresse (Bonjour Laziness) soon landed her a disciplinary hearing for “pursuing a strategy of rotting the company from within.” Naturally, she went straight to her union, which went to the press, et voilà, the book was a bestseller. This month, the English translation comes out. But will it appeal to work-crazed New Yorkers? Jada Yuan spoke with Maier.
It’s 5:30 P.M. Paris time. Are you still at work?
No. I’m at home. But I don’t work every day. I work two days and a bit more.
Should you be working even less?
We should all work twenty hours, but my dream is to quit big business.
Haven’t you earned enough money from your book that you could?
Maybe if it sells in the United States. But there is another reason why I stay in my company: It bothers my bosses.
Do you now have carte blanche to skip meetings whenever you want?
More or less. In fact, they think I’m very dangerous, so they don’t invite me to meetings anymore.
The French work 350 fewer hours per year than Americans. Did they really need help slacking off?
Yes, because in my book, I advise people on how to pretend to work when they are at their jobs.
What’s your best advice?
It’s important to create the impression of being a team player. So workers have to be very nice to the managers, to speak the company’s jargon, to look very busy, and to cultivate a personal network while others are doing their jobs.
How exactly does that advance human society, much less your employer?
First, I don’t care. And second, it can be a social experiment, because if everybody does it, maybe society will change. The system will collapse. Laziness doesn’t help the economy grow. But it could create something else.
You’ve said you’re not a Marxist. What are your politics?
I’m just afraid of everything that is trying to make people like slaves.
New Yorkers are notorious workaholics. Should we be lazier?
Yes. But only people who are bored. My book is made to be read by people who think that what they do is useless. If they like their job, they won’t have to read it.
But what do you think of our work culture?
Americans think they can create themselves through work. They can become rich. They can change their life. In France we don’t believe in it.
Have you seen The Apprentice?
I’ve heard of it. I think it might be awful. It sounds very strange. They are competing to work. And it is so violent.
Do you admire Bush because he spent much of his first year in office on vacation?
I thought that was French propaganda!
Any job offers since the book came out?
Now I have a confession. I know your book is just 135 pages, but I only read half. Do I need to read the rest?
It’s up to you. I don’t care.
Can you summarize the second half for me?
Yes, but not in English. It would be too much work.