Reviewed: Nein. A Manifesto by Erik Jarosinski
Aphorism, n. Predigested wisdom.
- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
Aphorisms: 1. Old ships in new bottles. 2. Philosophy for those with little Zeit. Written by those with little Geist.
- Nein, A Manifesto
It may be proposed that the two most important things for an aspiring aphorist to possess are good backlighting (the better to squint dourly at one’s parchment, writing-paper or computer) and a healthy cynicism towards the human race. Whilst the former may have changed over the years, the latter still thankfully remains the same, as evidenced by the writings of Diogenes, Schopenhauer and Bierce to Adorno and now, Nein.
Nein. A Manifesto (Grove Press) is a collection of aphorisms for the social media age. In the grand style of intellectuals/philosophers (both real and pseudo) and wits before him, Nein, known as @NeinQuarterly on the harshly white backlit world of Twitter, or Eric Jarosinski, one self-proclaimed #FailedIntellectual outside of it, records witty observations on his experience of academic life, German language, philosophy and online culture for posterity.
That is, if anyone is paying attention (he doesn’t seem to believe it himself).
But over 110K followers will tell you otherwise. The daily Twitter timeline of Nein wisdom is typed through grey rather than rose-tinted glasses, the disapproving, monocled cartoon face of Theodor W. Adorno gazing at you. He and Nein are there to give you regular updates on the state of politics, capitalism and poets (spoiler: none of it is good). Some will even tell you that Nein, on his travels across the world, is a harbinger of global news-making events. Note last fall and winter, when shortly after his time in Paris, someone deflated the infamous Paul McCarthy sex toy Christmas tree in Place Vendôme. Or when he went to Sweden and the country found evidence of a Russian submarine in its waters.
Nein would like to state that these events are simply coincidence.
The manifesto itself negates and negates with a slightly maniacal, but depressed frenzy: nothing is safe from his nihilistic musings, whether it is love, logic, Utopia, student debt, Nietzsche, Marx, to bar jokes:
Magritte walks into a bar.
Smoking a pipe.
Sits down next to Freud.
Smoking a phallus.
- Major in philosophy
- Ask yourself what you were thinking.
As a holder of a philosophy degree, this is humorous and yet stingingly apropos. It also highlights what endears us to the aphorism: it is a statement about ourselves that we have always taken for granted, one that we never stopped to really think about until it gets presented to us in black and white; a billet-doux (or just an angry refrigerator note) from the self.
Reading Nein. A Manifesto will remind you of the Gustave Flaubert quote, “Never touch your idols: the gilding will stick to your fingers.”
The good news:
Technology has brought us closer together.
This is also the bad news.
This reviewer would like to humbly disagree. There are plenty of overly serious intellectuals, noisemakers and attention-seekers as well as any number of personas on Twitter. Nein is funny, of that there is no doubt. But his particular persona is a reflection of how genuinely interesting personalities will naturally rise to well-deserved attention, no matter how much we would like to complain about social media being nothing but a waste of time (whilst scrolling through our timelines).
Perhaps in the age of the Kindle, the idea of buying a slim volume of humorous and slightly bleak aphorisms by a former academic seems like a waste. After all, I hear you say, I could buy the latest overhyped novel by that author who previously only wrote one book, or the newest Scandi-thriller. Yes, you could. But this reviewer humbly urges you to buy this one instead. Learn a little more about philosophy, the art of the aphorism and realise that they are not the shrivelled ancient musings you always thought they were.
Commodity Fetishism: Mistaking someone’s labor for something you would want to buy.
And then say you knew Nein when he was gloomily not favouriting your tweets.
Tomoé Hill lives and writes a bit of everything in Kent. Previous pieces have been in Minor Literature[s], The Stockholm Review of Literature, LossLit and Open Pen. She is reviews editor at Minor Literature[s].