Chapter 6 Immersed in Boredom: the Architecture of Brisbane in Johnno

In: The Culture of Boredom
Christian Rafael Parreño Roldán
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In Johnno (1975), David Malouf portrays Brisbane as a space of boredom. For Dante, the narrator, the city is “a place where nothing happened and where nothing would ever happen, because it had no soul,” “too mediocre even to be a province of hell.” And for Johnno, the character whose life is recounted, it is “the ugliest place in the world,” “the bloody arsehole of the universe.” Marked by World War ii, the architecture configures a sleepy sub-tropical town, adorned with downy palm trees and hard surfaces of brown and beige weatherboard. Nevertheless, this realm of boredom—“so slatternly, so sprawlingly unlovely”—nourishes Johnno’s intellectualism and Dante’s wistfulness, providing a sense of self and place but inciting the quotidian denunciation of their surroundings and their eventual departure. Following Martin Heidegger’s suggestion to study boredom through the literary, the close analysis of the descriptions of Brisbane explores the interdependence between the condition and the architecture where it unfolds. In Johnno, far from being an environment of stasis, the capital of Queensland is a force of physical and ontological movement, with influence in the spatiality of its inhabitants. Progressing from the individual to the social and communal, boredom configures experience and thus affects actions of innovation and reactions to stagnation, as a mood—both undesired and incantatory.

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