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Seasonal Associate

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  238 ratings  ·  33 reviews
How the brutalities of working life are transformed into exhaustion, shame, and self-doubt: a writer's account of her experience working in an Amazon fulfillment center.

No longer able to live on the proceeds of her freelance writing and translating income, German novelist Heike Geissler takes a seasonal job at Amazon Order Fulfillment in Leipzig. But the job, intended as a
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 24th 2018 by Semiotext(e) (first published January 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  238 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I find it super interesting that as of this date (3/10/2019) there are only two reviews listed for this book on Amazon and both are negative. Maybe it's not surprising as this memoir makes working at an Amazon fulfillment center feel like being in a dystopian nightmare. A place where everyone would rather be somewhere else and all the little human interactions that lend grace and make life bearable are stamped out in the demand to ship more things, more quickly, to more people.

Heike Geissler is
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a nonfiction account of Geissler's time as a seasonal associate at an Amazon warehouse in Germany for extra money during a lull in her work as a writer/translator. I thought the holiday season would be the perfect time to read it and I really enjoyed the stylistic approach. Written in both the first and second person, it feels as though Geissler is having a conversation with the reader in their (my/your) first days as a seasonal associate, giving them tips from 'behind the scenes.' The ...more
"You'll try over and over to view it differently, but even from the start, the experience forces you to your knees and down a social stratum, and that's the way it will stay. Yes, you'll start to see strata in society. If you don't already. You'll see the strata before your eyes as clearly as geologists see the structure of the ground where they've dug a deep pit."

Heike Geissler's translated novel/essay/treatise on her experience working on short-term contact at a German Amazon fulfillment
Anton Relin
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
While I highly recommend reading this book, I found myself having difficulty finishing it. Perhaps it is because Geissler really does make you feel like you are working away at Amazon. The point of view and voice are unique and refreshing, a good read
Matt Raymond
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-books
Experimental look at the current state of work, Seasonal Associate is a fascinating account of what 21st century employment is, and it’s not pretty.

Part memoir/part second person narrative, the book documents Geissler’s time working as a temp at an Amazon Warehouse during Christmas. She does everything she can to put us in her position, saying “You” and adding bits of essential personality (“you prefer dealing with people who are what they do”) that make us live through the problems, as opposed
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A short novel that ponders in a provocative and ironic way about the precariousness of contemporary work. The title pretty much shows what this book is about and how it goes about its story: how a worker is called at Amazon quarters, a seasonal "associate," adds insult to injury. Nobody is an associate at Amazon, nobody associates with one another at Amazon, where there's no association between the worker and his or her work. The narrative device used by Geissler, second person narration, is ...more
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow, this was something. This is an account of Geissler's time working as a seasonal worker at Amazon, but it's an account like no other I've read before. What does it feel like to work in an Amazon warehouse? "You're a tool gifted with a voice no one wants to hear." I loved her use of second person, how the narrator is separate from that second person, how she treats time and the grind of menial meaningless labor.

Dang. Amazon is some crap, no surprise, but still. Amazon is bullshit.
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked this book and read it quickly. I found a few typos and missing punctuation marks which always drives me batty.
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
The narrative style was as interesting as the story. I kept stopping to admire the skill of the author and how she chose to deliver her message. There's a beautiful image of "desire lines" towards the end. Very impressive.
Judy G
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
When I read about this book I wanted to read it about and by a young woman in Leipzig Germany who is broke and in 2010 december she seeks and is hired by Amazon GmbH. She is working there I think for a month as "seasonal associate". this book was published in Germany and only recently translated for us and available from MIT Press. She covers everything and she is a writer. Its a dark disturbing book and she and the translator really succeeding in conveying the people and the situations for ...more
Aug 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This is an experimental novel/memoir about seasonal work at an Amazon distribution center in Germany.

One winter morning on the tram to work, she points out that “You, in the midst of your coworkers, in the midst of strangers with coats and bellies, frozen and in some cases chapped hands on handholds, are nothing but a placeholder for machines that have already been invented but aren’t yet profitable enough to permanently replace you and your workmates, who are all very low cost. The fact that
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Heike Geissler has written a “nonfiction novel” about working in an Amazon warehouse.

I’ve read very few novels that have work as their sole subject matter. _Then We Came to the End_ by Joshu Ferris comes to mind. I loved Ferris’s book because it realistically (and hilariously) portrayed what it’s like to work in an office, all the joys, annoyances, and dramas. Geissler’s book is similar in that it’s only about work: any other traditional areas of human experience are subsumed to the experience
Mark Plakias
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was presented as a non-fictional narrative, but its dream-like quality, and its use of a second-person narrative perspective made it read like fiction for me. Likewise, while there is a fair amount of physical description, the real heart of the book is the focus on aggressive interpersonal dysfunction and collective despair that emerges at the heart of the Amazonian machinery -- there is nothing disruptive or innovative about the processes involving cardboard boxes and pallets. This book's ...more
Jenni Link
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Made more dreamlike by being written mostly in the second person, this is the story of an (over?)educated writer and translator -- someone who is used to being among people who 'are what they do' -- who is forced by financial need to take a seasonal job at an Amazon warehouse. There, the work is completely alienating and depersonalized, and workers' behavior and productivity are managed according to an infantilizing and punitive regime that will be familiar to anyone who's worked an hourly job ...more
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
The author's way of sharing her experience working at Amazon in Leipzig is one I've never seen, and it made the book an intriguing read, although it wasn't always easy. I just read Nomadland a while ago, and it was interesting to compare the old folks' experience at Amazon in the US with hers. She, mind you, is working 8 hour days (occasionally 7 days/wk, but not often), and she finds it completely overwhelming, whereas the retirees in Nomadland were working 10 and 12 hour days. This book is ...more
Celeste Teng
“The products look like retired former workers for this global corporation. You don’t quite understand how a fortune could be made out of these things on either side of you and out of books and data carriers and a program and a website, a fortune that’s still growing. Nor do you understand why that fortune is not allowed to have a reverse effect on the hall, to add a little comfort or shine. It’s not as if you don’t realize the fact that the fortune is deliberately prevented from flowing back ...more
Aug 17, 2019 rated it liked it
A bit of a case of 'tell me something I don't know' for me. It doesn't really do much in the way of stylistic intrigue or innovation, and so Seasonal Associate plays out as a droll narrative recitation of why working for global cybersuperstore Amazon is bad, and I feel like this type of narrative is not the most effective or interesting way to convey this information, and as a novel it doesn't do enough to interrogate the self as it works in this system.
Paige Newman
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Holy shit. I assumed this would be a much-deserved screed against the abysmal conditions of working at an Amazon warehouse, but it's so much more than that. It's more of a meditation on the nature of the modern job. The book is a mix of second and third person so that she can both narrate it and put you into her experience. At one point she writes, “You’re a tool gifted with a voice no one wants to hear.” If that doesn't say it all about the modern work place, I don't know what does.
Sep 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Beautifully written and translated with a dreamy quality. Interesting to learn about seasonal amazon work in another country. The vibe feels intriguing, wintry, German. I found the author’s sense of injustice (and the accompanying Afterward laden with Marxist references) out of balance with their tenure at the warehouse of only a few weeks. This book reminded me of David Sedaris’s essay about seasonal elf work.
Taylor Napolsky
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
A depressing and stifling account of a woman who ends up working in one of the dreaded Amazon warehouses. It’s quite readable but experimental in form, the perfect blend for me. Read it for a very intellectual—and triggering even—take on consumerism, capitalism, exploitation, dehumanization... Hey I said it was depressing.

Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wow! An utterly unique reading experience. Clever, cheeky, experimental, and humane. A manifesto, of sorts — really more a philosophical puzzle, without conclusions, only convictions. Marvelously rendered scenes, setting, and narrative voice . . . even the use of second person is absolutely effective. Brilliant, truly. I loved it.
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A difficult but important book. Gets into the true experience of work in the modern world and questions human nature in relation to "work". Do not be put off by the first and second person voice. Geissler seamlessly writes you into the narrative and places you at amazon.
Hannah Ekin
read this book very fast. language sparse and blunt, theme grim and somehow too close for comfort - social(ist) realism for the capitalist present, a nice document of the what mindless work looks like in post-industrial society and how people are just too fuckin tired to revolt
Jul 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting read. Explores ideas of how we are defined (and sometimes demeaned) -- or not -- by our work. Translated from the German, it is written in a voice that may be unfamiliar to many American readers, but worth the extra effort.
Nov 25, 2019 rated it liked it
i appreciated the afterword, it helped give context to the book and made me appreciate it more. a very interesting read about what it's like working at amazon in a customer fulfilment centre.
Jun 14, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great 'present' book, a second-person meditation on how we work now, and an early critical work of Amazon.
Beth Anne
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fun times in an Amazon warehouse during the holidays! Readable, hilarious, relatable, helpful in reminding me all the reasons to avoid the beast.
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
this is the only good book i've ever read
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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Heike Geißler studied American culture, Geography and Politics in Dresden, Germany from 1996-1998.

From 1998-2001 she studied German, Literature and Hispanic languages in Halle, Germany.

From 2003-2007 she studied German literature and Philosophy.
“Und nun: Dinge, ach ja, Dinge. Wegen all der Dinge, die es gibt, und die irgendwer kaufen möchte oder kaufen soll, sind Sie ja hier. Seltsame Waren in Ihren Händen, zum Beispiel dieses Basecap, das bereits dermaßen abgenutzt daherkommt, dass es kaum noch zusätzlich abgenutzt werden kann. Mode im Used- oder Destroyed-Look, Sie verstehen schon, aber dieses Cap ist nur noch ein zerfleddertes Ding, eher etwas für die Anhänger einer radikalisierten Beschleunigung des Warenkreislaufs, die also nur kaufen, was weggeworfen werden muss, weil es als benutzbares Produkt versagt, allein zur Geld- und Materialbewegung taugt.” 0 likes
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