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Hans Magnus Enzensberger

An Expert Review in 89 Numbers - With a Dialogue between Nature and an Unhappy Man: On the Demon that is the Division of Labour

With illustrations
Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Foto: Hans Magnus Enzensberger
© Jürgen Bauer

» […] one of Germany's leading public intellectualsLondon Review of Books

Hans Magnus Enzensberger was born in Kaufbeuren in 1929. As a poet, essayist, writer, publisher and translator, he is one of the world’s most influential and internationally renowned German intellectuals.
 

Awards (selection):
Sonningprisen 2010
Premio d’Annunzio 2006
Premio Principe de Asturias 2002
Heinrich-Heine-Preis 1998
Erich-Maria-Remarque-Friedenspreis 1993
Heinrich Böll-Preis 1985
Büchner-Preis 1963
Deutscher Kritikerpreis 1962

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On the winning formula of humanity: the division of labour without any morals

About

Nature has treated people somewhat like a stepmother would. Other animals are stronger, can swim and fly better, give birth less awkwardly and do not need as much time to become adults. How can it be then that this weak creature came to be the strongest on earth? The answer, if you believe the author, has to do with the division of labour. Thanks to this trick every one of us, he believes, can achieve something pretty good, even if it remains impossible for a person to do everything.

But when every person can be an expert the question becomes: what exactly is his speciality, what makes him the best? In order to find out, one has to pay close attention. It doesn’t matter whether we’re looking at a passionate bus driver, a comet hunter, a specialist for mousetraps or plastic bags, a con artist or a number theorist – we can thank the demon of the division of labour for our temporary victory over this planet, for our insanity and our defeats.

Through eighty-nine familiar and spectacular variations Enzensberger unfolds this fancy of nature, which compensates our defects and has made our survival possible. His examples range from the ancient world to the present day, from the discovery of the spiral and the alphabet to the art of making manhole covers more attractive.

Praise

»He brilliantly showcases the genius and insanity of famous or forgotten specialists – be it for screws, physical mysteries, unconditional basic income or British waterfowl.« Peter von Becker, Der Tagesspiegel

»[...] a compendium with the characteristics of a royal cabinet-of-curiosities.« Jamal Tuschick, der Freitag

»With him, readers enter a kind of cabinet of curiosities of the human mind. [...] In short, a reliable Enzensberger: critically and wittily thought out.« Paul Stänner, Deutschlandfunk

»A late work full of colour [...]« Kai Sina, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»Enzensberger’s volume offers a fascinating and intelligent Panopticon of the history of science and of culture.« Ulf Heise, MDR

»… [a] refreshing, curious hommage to the experts and the connoisseurs.« SWR

»A wonderful reading pleasure about professions, vocations and aptitudes.« Renate Kromp, news.at

»An enjoyable encyclopaedia!« Hansruedi Kugler, St. Galler Tagblatt

»Effortless, without drifting off into the trivial. […] If you get bored reading this, you are the one who is boring.« Roland Gutsch, Nordkurier

»With wit, wisdom and numerous surprising examples the grand seigneur of contemporary German literature presents 89 experts.« Heiko Buhr, Lebensart im Norden

»It’s fun to study this multi-faceted ›Expert Review‹.« Knut Cordsen, br.de

»Hans Magnus Enzensberger‘s productivity is impressive. Two new titles were published this year and they showcase the jubilarian as the unchanged astute analyst and excpetionally gifted virtuoso of words.« Peter Mohr, lokalkompass.de

Other publications

Wirrwarr/Babel (2020)

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Fallobst/Windfalls (2019)

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Eine Handvoll Anekdoten/A Handful of Anecdotes (2018)

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Spanish world rights (Anagrama), France (Gallimard)

Überlebenskünstler/Survival Artists (2018)

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Immer das Geld!/Nothing but Money! (2015)

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Tumult/Tumult (2014)

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Verschwunden!/Gone! (2014)

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Herrn Zetts Betrachtungen, oder Brosamen, die er fallen ließ, aufgelesen von seinen Zuhörern/Mr. Zed’s Considerations or Crumbs That He Let Fall, Gleaned From His Listeners (2013)

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Enzensbergers Panoptikum/Enzensberger’s Panoptikum (2012)

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Sanftes Monster Brüssel oder Die Entmündigung Europas/Tender Monster Brussels or the Disenfranchisement of Europe (2011)

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Album/Album (2010)

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Meine Lieblings-Flops, gefolgt von einem Ideen-Magazin/My Favourite Flops, followed by a wealth of ideas (2010)

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Fortuna und Kalkül/Fortuna and Probability (2009)

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Hammerstein oder Der Eigensinn/Hammerstein or Idiosyncrasy (2008)

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Im Irrgarten der Intelligenz/The Labyrinth of Intelligence (2007)

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Schreckens Männer/Terror's Men (2006)

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Josefine und ich/Josefine and I (2006)

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Dialoge zwischen Unsterblichen, Lebendigen und Toten/Dialogues between the Immortals, the Living and the Dead (2004)

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Die Geschichte der Wolken/The History of the Clouds (2003)

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Die Elixiere der Wissenschaft/The Elixirs of Science (2002)

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Leichter als Luft/Lighter than Air (1999)

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Zickzack/Zigzag (1999)

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Kiosk/Kiosk (1995)

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Aussichten auf den Bürgerkrieg/Civil Wars (1993)

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Ach Europa!/Europe, Europe (1988)

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Politische Brosamen/Political Crumbs (1982)

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Der Untergang der Titanic/The Sinking of the Titanic (1979)

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Mausoleum/Mausoleum (1978)

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Der kurze Sommer der Anarchie/The Short Summer of Anarchy (1972)

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Einzelheiten I/Particulars (1964)

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Politik und Verbrechen/Politics and Crime (1964)

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