Joseph Brodsky’s Boredom: Dodging the Redundancy of Time

by Christian Parreno

As for poverty, boredom is the most brutal part of its misery, and the departure from it takes more radical forms: of violent rebellion or drug addiction. Both are temporary, for the misery of poverty is infinite; both, because of that infinity, are costly. In general, a man shooting heroin into his vein does so largely for the same reason you buy a video: to dodge the redundancy of time. The difference, though, is that he spends more than he’s got, and that his means of escape become as redundant as what he is escaping from faster than yours. On the whole, the difference in tactility between a syringe’s needle and a stereo’s push button roughly corresponds to that between the acuteness and dullness of time’s impact upon the have-nots and the haves. In short, whether rich or poor, sooner or later you will be afflicted by this redundancy of time.


In a manner of speaking, boredom is your window on time, on those properties of it one tends to ignore to the likely peril of one’s mental equilibrium. In short, it is your window on time’s infinity, which is to say, on your insignificance in it. That’s what accounts, perhaps, for one’s dread of lonely, torpid evenings, for the fascination with which one watches sometimes a fleck of dust swirl in a sunbeam, and somewhere a clock tick-tocks, the day is hot, and your will-power is at zero.

Brodsky, Joseph (1996) ‘In Praise of Boredom’ in On Grief and Reason. New York, NY – USA: Farrar Straus Giroux. 107, 109