Author Talk Labor in the Amazon Era: Heike Geissler in conversation with Stephen Squibb

Amazon Fulfillment Center © Tony Webster 2017


Goethe-Institut New York

German novelist Heike Geissler will discuss Seasonal Associate, a literary account of her experience working in an Amazon fulfillment center, with critic and author Stephen Squibb.
In Seasonal Associate, Geissler takes a seasonal job at Amazon Order Fulfillment in Leipzig when she is no longer able to live on the proceeds of her freelance writing and translating income. But the job, intended as a stopgap measure, quickly becomes a descent into humiliation, and Geissler soon begins to internalize the dynamics and nature of the post-capitalist labor market and precarious work. Driven to work at Amazon by financial necessity rather than journalistic ambition, Heike Geissler has nonetheless written the first and only literary account of corporate flex-time employment that offers “freedom” to workers who have become an expendable resource. Shifting between the first and the second person, Seasonal Associate is a nuanced expose of the psychic damage that is an essential working condition with mega-corporations. Geissler has written a twenty-first-century account of how the brutalities of working life are transformed into exhaustion, shame, and self-doubt.
Seasonal Associate’s recent publication in the US (in English translation by Katy Derbyshire) is an opportunity to reflect on the ever increasing reliance on the work of independent contractors by corporations and their precarious working conditions, especially in light of Amazon’s recently withdrawn plan to build a second headquarters in Queens that became the subject of withering criticism from local residents.
Heike Geissler
is a fiction writer from Leipzig, Germany. She teaches creative writing in Halle/Saale and Leipzig. Rosa, her first novel, was awarded with the Alfred Döblin Prize for debut fiction in 2001. She subsequently published a novella, Nichts was tragisch wäre, in 2009 and a children’s book, Emma & Pferd Beere, in 2010. Her critically acclaimed non-fiction-novel Seasonal Associate (Saisonarbeit) earned her a fellowship by the German Academy Rome Villa Massimo in 2017. The English translation of Seasonal Associate was published by Semiotext(e) in 2018.
Stephen Squibb is a writer and editor based in New York. His work has appeared in artforum, Frieze, Monthly Review, Jacobin, n+1, and e-flux journal, where he was formerly an editor. With Keith Gessen, he edited City by City, Dispatches from the American Metropolis, (Best Books of 2015, Publisher's Weekly) A founding member and former artistic director of Woodshed Collective, producers of immersive theater works The Confidence Man (Best of 2009, Gothamist) The Tenant, (Best of 2011, L Magazine), Empire Travel Agency (Critic's Pick, New York Times) and K-POP (Best Musical, 2017, Lucille Lortel Awards), he also worked for Martha Rosler on her Meta-Monumental Garage Sale (Museum of Modern Art) and Untitled Helsinki Garden in Singapore, (Singapore Biennial). He is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Harvard University.
This event received support from Books First, the Goethe-Institut’s new program for bringing literature in German to English-speaking readers.