Dolce Far Niente

“Dolce Far Niente” is a project about leisure that will be share throughout August on MACRO’s digital channels.


The expression “Dolce far niente” (pleasant idleness) seems to come from the Roman writer and magistrate Pliny the Younger, who in Book VIII of his Letters wrote: “It seems ages since I took up a book or a pen, and ages since I knew what it was to do nothing, and rest and enjoy that lazy but delightful state of inactivity where you hardly know you exist”.


The following are a series of texts, books and essays through which to delve into the theme of leisure as the glorification of free time, liberated from commitments, purposes and urgent matters, as we devote ourselves entirely to the rebirth of body and mind. Accompanying these literary suggestions will be some images created an Artificial Intelligence and a playlist on the theme. In an age driven by hyper-productivity, together we will try to discover how to delightfully nestle into idleness, without feeling guilty in the least. 

 Marcus Tullius Cicero, “De officiis”
(44 B.C)
«But I should not compare this leisure of mine with that of Africanus, nor this solitude with his. For he, to find leisure from his splendid services to his country, used to take a vacation now and then and to retreat from the assemblies and the throngs of men into solitude, as into a haven of rest. But my leisure is forced upon me by want of public business, not prompted by any desire for repose. […] But I have not strength of mind enough by means of silent meditation to forget my solitude; and so I have turned all my attention and endeavour to this kind of literary work. I have, accordingly, written more in this short time since the downfall of the republic than I did in the course of many years, while the republic stood.»


✦ Yoshida Kenkō, “Essays in Idleness”
(1330 – 32)
«What a strange, demented feeling it gives me when I realize I have spent whole days before this ink stone, with nothing better to do, jotting down at random whatever nonsensical thoughts have entered my head.»


Paul Lafargue, “The right to be lazy”
«The Greeks in their era of greatness had only contempt for work: their slaves alone were permitted to labor: the free man knew only exercises for the body and mind. And so it was in this era that men like Aristotle, Phidias, Aristophanes moved and breathed among the people; it was the time when a handful of heroes at Marathon crushed the hordes of Asia, soon to be subdued by Alexander. The philosophers of antiquity taught contempt for work, that degradation of the free man, the poets sang of idleness, that gift from the Gods: “O Melibae Deus nobis haec otia fecit”.»


Robert Louis Stevenson, “An Apology for Idlers”
«Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality; and a faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity. There is a sort of dead-alive, hackneyed people about, who are scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation. Bring these fellows into the country, or set them aboard ship, and you will see how they pine for their desk or their study.»


Jerome K. Jerome, “Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow”
«It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. There is no fun in doing nothing when you have nothing to do. Wasting time is merely an occupation then, and a most exhausting one. Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen.»


William Morris, “Useful work versus useless toil”
«We must begin to build up the ornamental part of life – its pleasure, bodily and mental, scientific and artistic, social and individual – on the basis of work undertaken willingly and cheerfully, with the consciousness of benefiting ourselves and our neighbours by it.»


Henri Lefebvre, “Critique of Everyday Life”
«To sum up, work, leisure, family life and private life make up a whole which we can call a ‘global structure’ or ‘totality’ on condition that we emphasize its historical, shifting, transitory nature. If we consider the critique of everyday life as an aspect of a concrete sociology we can envisage a vast enquiry which will look at professional life and leisure activities in terms of their many-sided interactions. Our particular concern will be to extract what is living, new, positive—the worthwhile needs and fulfilments- from the negative elements; the alienations.»


Tom Hodgkinson, “How to Be Idle”
«In 1993, I went to interview the late radical philosopher and drugs researcher Terence McKenna. I asked him why society doesn’t allow us to be more idle. He replied:
“I think the reason we don’t organise society in that way can be summed up in the aphorism, ‘ idle hands are the devil’s tool’. In other words, institutions fear idle populations because an Idler is a thinker and thinkers are not a welcome addition to most social situations. Thinkers become malcontents, that’s almost a substitute word for idle, ‘malcontent’. Essentially, we are all kept very busy.”»