Xerox

In a European city, an unnamed customer service representative works for a start-up. Printing letters is her only responsibility. She grew up in an underprivileged environment, she has a life-threatening stress-induced allergy and she’s very lonely. Her closest relationship is with her printer. In the confines of her office, she talks to the machine about her fears, her past and her dreams.

Fiction
Original title
Xerox
Author
Fien Veldman

One day the woman is meant to receive a package from an anonymous sender, but it’s been delivered to the wrong address. She frantically searches for it. The package and the printer grow into obsessions and she seems to be slowly losing her hold on reality. Then the printer — her partner, friend, child and pet all rolled into one — falters, just like she does. When her boss finds out she’s been talking to a machine, she’s sent home, which means she is not near her beloved Xerox anymore. She gets fired and the printer is put out on the curb. The novel ends when a garbage man reunites the woman with her printer.

Xerox could be considered a scathing critique of office culture — that is, if the woman cared enough about her job to critique it — and social class. But even more accurately, it serves as a wonderfully funny reminder that the world is bigger than the confines of an office cubicle. In writing about them with great precision, Fien Veldman lifts mundane moments out of tidy offices and messy city streets, forcing us to reconsider them as beautiful.

Xerox is a funny and visionary debut, reminiscent in tone and subject of Halle Butler’s The New Me and Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman, while the portrayal of the eccentric outsider brings to mind Herman Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener. This is a story that will resonate with everyone, as we’ve probably all had the experience of completing seemingly random tasks at office jobs while reflecting on our place in society. Xerox is a moving and witty novel about class difference in late capitalist society and the longing for humanity in ourselves and the things around us.

‘Xerox captures the zeitgeist, a whole society, perhaps even the weltschmerz of a whole generation. It is a story about class differences, social alienation and (not) coping with the present. Hidden in almost every sentence is an astute insight into our society, our modern cities, our working lives, and of course our relationships. For me, the magic of Xerox lies above all in its clear- sightedness and wit, in its subtle and engaging prose. It is a sublime work of literary fiction.’

Lena Däuker, who acquired the German translation rights for Hanser

‘You frequently wonder who is really the crazy one here – the protagonist or society.’

Het Parool
Fien Veldman
Fien Veldman (b. 1990) was the 2022 recipient of the Joost Zwagerman Essay Prize for her essay ‘Not really making it’, about growing up in a working-class neighbourhood in Leeuwarden.
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