Saturday, February 21, 2009

Turns out there's a word for that: platzangst

In an essay in Harpers, a writer describes a circular effect in a story by Robert Bolaño:
The circular temporality, the idea that they are undertaking a repetition (but with a slight variation), owes something to Borges. It also evokes a variation on the phobia that the Germans call Platzangst: the illusion that one has made no progress at all while attempting to cross a vast, unending square.
(From The Wandering Years: Roberto Bolaño's nomadic fiction, April 2007)

Wow, I had no idea there was a word for that, or that it was regarded as a common psychological affliction. I thought it was just my own impatience and anxiety. I often experience it after getting out of my car and walking up to the door of a building such as the post office -- I know rationally that the door is only a few feet away but it seems enormously inconvenient to traverse the wide, ugly sidewalk to reach it. And it's also a feeling of selfishness: I'm not allowed to park in the handicapped spaces which are closest to the door, so I have a feeling of irritation while making those twenty or thirty extra steps. Platzangst! Now I know.

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