I originally posted this question on English language page, but someone suggested me to ask it in here again. *I don't speak French, and I'd much appreciate it if someone could help me with this in English.


Below is from "Dare to be Lazy" by Roland Barthes

We should consider what idleness is is modern life. Have you ever noticed that everyone always talks about the right to leisure activities but never about a right to idleness? (...) I remember this image: When I was a child, Paris was different. It was before the war. It was hot in the summer, hotter than it is now; at least it seems that way to me. In the evening, you'd often see the concierges ― there were a lot of them, they were an institution ― bring chairs out in the street, and they'd just sit there, doing nothing. It's an image of idleness that has disappeared. In modern Paris, there aren't as many gestures of idleness. The cafe is a kind of laziness, but with spin-offs: there are conversations, there is an "appearance" of activity. This is not true idleness.

and here is the link to the original text written in French: https://www.lemonde.fr/archives/article/1979/09/17/roland-barthes-osons-etre-paresseux_2783595_1819218.html

I'm having difficulty understanding what "spin-off" exactly means in this context,

it doesn't necessarily seem to fit dictionary definitions, and seems like it's not so clear to native speakers as well since I got some different interpretations to this. So I brought the original text to ask if it's a faulty translation, or just in hopes of finding anyone who could help me understand this.

Thanks in advance!

  • 3
    The full article is not freely available, so if you have access to it, I suggest you try to identify the matching sentence in it (try to look for the word "café") and add it to your question
    – Greg
    May 28 '20 at 5:18
  • 1
    I have access to the text in Le Monde, and nothing there corresponds to the English translation. There is no passage about Barthes's childhood in Paris, about concierges, about cafés. Without seeing the French text, there's no question that we can answer here. This site isn't about English texts. May 28 '20 at 11:31
  • 6
    I’m voting to close this question because it's about an English text. The meaning of an English text is off-topic here. If the original French can be found, a question about its meaning would be on-topic here. May 28 '20 at 11:32

I found a different translation from the one that you put in your post, that might help you understand the meaning of this sentence:

I remember this image: of being a child, a teenager, when Paris was different. This was before the War. The summers were hotter, certainly hotter than now as everyone believes, or at least, me, I do believe it. Very often, the Parisian concierges, at the time an institution, came out with their chairs during the evenings, propping them in front of their doors to sit without doing anything.

This is, of course, a vision of laziness that has been completely eliminated, and which I no longer find in contemporary life; in today’s Paris, there aren’t many gestures of laziness. A café is nonetheless a relay point with conversations and an “appearance” as well. This is not true idleness.

If I take Google's definition for "spin-off":

A by-product or incidental result of a larger project.

I think he is trying to say that when you go to a café, you get something in return (a coffee, a drink, conversations with people). A result is produced, it involves the appearance of an activity, and therefore it is not an example of true idleness (in opposition to the concierges simply sitting down in front of their doors).

I hope it makes it clearer. As a French native, I tried to find the French version of the article to understand it better, but I only found an incomplete one that omits this very part of the interview.

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