Don’t get me wrong, my colleagues are the nicest people one can possibly work with, and yet, their certain office habits (such as a passion for small talk, for example) can be quite distracting – especially when there is a deadline to meet. It took me a few tough months to fully realize this, and once I did, I became eager to find a shelter outside the office, where I could work in peace and quiet, and where my colleagues would not be able to find me. And I did find a place that perfectly fitted the purpose I pursued.
My shelter became the National Library of Technology in Dejvice, or, as many visitors are used to calling it, NTK. It is especially popular among the students of the Czech Technical University located nearby, however, anyone can have access to its study areas, and, if registered, to the library’s other facilities such as computers, printing, scanning, etc. What attracted me most, though, was the space of the library itself – several floors with white walls and red-orange-yellow-green floors, a plenitude of tables and couches to study and work on, a cafeteria and a stationary store on the first floor. And, of course, students. Having myself discovered NTK a few years ago as a student, I was coming back here with a sense of nostalgia for the times when I have not yet encountered the reality of having a full-time job, and when my greatest worry was to finish my thesis on time.
At NTK, I lived through many hours of fruitful work. No familiar faces, no distractions. Only me, my computer, and the work I have to do. That was my professional paradise.
This is a story of how this paradise got threatened. The outcome of that threat I am yet to discover. It happened a few days ago. I was at NTK, finishing my iced coffee in Cafe Prostoru on the ground floor of the library when I suddenly remembered about an exhibition that was supposed to open at NTK Gallery a few days ago. I decided to check it out before setting back to work.
The two floors of the exhibition hall greeted me with heart-tearing music, post-apocalyptically rotating globes, a sad dalmatian, a number of sketches and paintings, an image-transmitting virus panel, a number of installations compiled of dozens of random objects, and a few videos. All this, as I later learned from a handout was a collection of works of different Swedish artists, all of whom are a part of Cosmic Castration (KK) project that questions rational social order and its manifestation through high-tech. As I walked past the installations, I was becoming more and more immersed in the atmosphere of tension and suspense that the exhibition created. At certain points, I was simply freaked out.
I freaked out even more when I heard a noise coming from one of the installations. In my attempt to find out the source of the noise, I encountered one of my office colleagues. “What are you doing here?” I asked, baffled. “Oh, I just came to see the exhibition,” the colleague replied. I nodded. The colleague continued, “This exhibition does not impress me much. It is too abstract for me”. I had nothing to do but to shrug my shoulders, “Possibly”. “But the library itself!” the colleague exclaimed. Have you seen its other floors? It is such a great space – not only for studying but also for working. You know, I think next time I need to finish my work before an important deadline, I will come here. I need this tranquility and the atmosphere of seriousness and concentration.” He paused for a moment. “By the way, what’s new with you? You look slightly terrified.”
I circled back to the beginning of the exhibition. In my mind, I was already saying farewell to the heavenly retreat, which I thought would be mine – and mine only – forever. How mistaken I was! I was confused and not knowing what to do. Shall I give space to the other or shall I establish a full rein over the territory?
The fake dalmatian looked at me, sadder than ever.
Narmin is a literature student from Baku, Azerbaijan, for whom moving to the Czech Republic has become a great source for inspiration.