“As Greek finance minister, he made a name for himself for standing up to Germany. But his political star burned out quickly.
Now, Yanis Varoufakis is trying his luck at writing novels.
His first novel, “Another Now,” which appeared in English last fall but which has only just now come out in German, imagines a world that changed as a consequence of the 2008 financial crisis.
What if it had become a better world? What would it look like today?
What would a fair and equal society actually look like? The world-renowned economist and bestselling author Yanis Varoufakis presents his radical and subversive answer in a work of speculative fiction that recalls William Morris and William Gibson.
The year: 2035.
In the fictional world of Yanis Varoufakis, there are no longer any commercial banks and no stock exchanges. Companies belong to the employees, with the staff determining salaries rather than the boss. There is a kind of unconditional basic income in this world and a right to living quarters. Varoufakis has essentially created a socialist dream world, one within which, one might hope, readers would feel right at home.
In fact, though, the world that Varoufakis has created feels strangely foreign, partly as a result of the rather essayistic writing style.
There are constant references to somebody or something: Plato, Odysseus, futurists or even just the Eurovision Song Contest. It’s not always clear what the references are meant to convey.
The main character in Varoufakis’ book is a man called Costa, who invents a miracle machine that is able to establish contact to his alter ego in another world. He begins talking with this alter ego about his life. Costa’s friends Ira and Eva also have counterparts in the machine’s miracle world. It is a kind of “Matrix” experiment for socialists.
The characters in his novel are assembled using components from Varoufakis’ real life.
The narrator is called Yango Varo, after Varoufakis’ grandfather. The Marxist feminist Iris is based on a lesbian friend from his student days. Costa, the nerd, actually existed: He left Greece when he was 18, went to university in Germany and became an electrical engineer.
Those are the ingredients for Varoufakis’ rather odd utopia. It is bizarre for the fact that the patriarchy is apparently still alive and well in the book, a clear message from the feminist Varoufakis that there is no such thing as a perfect world. He doesn’t even go so far as to say that the alternative world he imagines is better than the one in which we live.
Varoufakis says he’s rather ambivalent on that count. He doesn’t want to tell his readers what to think, instead leaving them a choice. And what about him? What would he do were such a machine available? The temptation would be great, he says. But staying in another world forever? “No, no.”
Why write the book, then? Is it not a rather odd utopia if not even its creator believes in it?
That piercing gaze returns to his face.
“What matters is that we change the conversation. That we give people the confidence to think that there is another now, that there is an alternative.”
Does he believe that his book is a final attempt to create an alternative to capitalism?
“It’s not a book against anything,” he says.
Anyway, he adds, capitalism has long since receded into the past.
It has changed, he says, into something that he calls “techno-feudalism” – rule by platforms like Facebook and Amazon.
They are, he says, destroying precisely that which is the chief characteristic of capitalism: the free market. That, he says, is what his second book is about.”