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I remember a story (possibly an anecdote or parable within a larger work, a la The Grand Inquisitor) about a person who goes about their life in an intentionally unpleasant way so that they can remain aware of every moment. The example I remember was of them choosing to taking a long, boring route to a given destionation where a shorter one would have sufficed and a more scenic one would have allowed them to be distracted on the journey.

I mentioned the story to my brother and he said it sounded familiar, but we couldn't pinpoint where from. I thought it might have been from Molloy or something by Camus, but I know my brother hasn't read the former and I've had no luck tracking it down in any of the latter.

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Turns out I was right about it being Camus, and I found the quote whilst re-reading The Plague:

‘Question: how can one manage not to lose time? Answer: experience it at its full length. Means: spend days in the dentist's waiting-room on an uncomfortable chair; live on one's balcony on a Sunday afternoon; listen to lectures in a language that one does not understand, choose the most roundabout and least convenient routes on the railway (and, naturally, travel standing up); queue at the box-office for theatres and so on and not take one's seat; etc.’ [p 22, trans. Robin Buss, Penguin]

Coincidentally enough, I am reading it simultaneously in both French and English, so here's the original:

« Question : comment faire pour ne pas perdre son temps? Réponse : l'éprouver dans toute sa longueur. Moyens : passer des journées dans l'anticambre d'un dentiste après-midi ; écouter des conférences dans une langue qu'on ne comprend pas, choisir les itinéraires de chemin de fer les plus longs et les moins commodes et voyager debout naturellement ; faire la queue aux guichets des spectacles et ne pas prendre sa place, etc. » [Gallimard]

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  • Hi. are story-identification questions still on-topic? – aminabzz Aug 7 at 13:54
  • @aminabzz Yes, they certainly are. :) Do take a look at Guidelines for good story-id questions? if you have a story ID question in mind. – user5387 Aug 7 at 16:17

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