Posted by: LYF | July 26, 2011

What it’s like being an accountant

I’ve tried really hard many times, to describe what it’s like being an accountant.  I’m in the middle of The Castle and came across the best description so far;

…there was nothing to further his goal, though one could probably take advantage of certain things to improve our family’s lot.  For up there everything, except for the whims of the servants, is quite modest, and since ambition seeks fulfillment in work and the task itself becomes paramount, eventually all ambition disappears; there is no reason to indulge childish wishes there.  Still, Barnabas was convinced, he told me, that he coudl clearly see how power and knowledge were wielded even by those rather dubious officials whose rooms he could enter.   How they dictated, quickly, with half-closed eyes and brief gestures; how, only with their index finger, wordlessly, they dispatched the surly servants who, breathing heavily at such moments, smiled happily, or how they found an important passage in their books, pounded on it, and the others, insofar as this was possible in the confined space, ran up and stretched their necks out toward it.  Such things gave Barnabas exalted ideas about these men and he had the impression that if he advanced far enough to be noticed and could exchange a few words with them not as a stranger but as on office colleague, if only of the most subordinate kind, then it would be possible to obtain unforeseen benefits for our family.


  1. Well that’s not depressing at all 😉
    Couldn’t the whole corporate world be described this way? I imagine a consultant has more people in offices that it would be great to impress? I’m not sure. Maybe that’s just part of it.

  2. I think the theme of bureaucracy applies to the corporate world. But the whole point about having your ambition crushed or thought of as “childish” is something I felt really strongly in accounting.

    “I imagine a consultant has more people in offices that it would be great to impress?” – what do you mean?

  3. I’ve never worked in consulting, so I don’t really know what I’m talking about here, but my imagination paints a picture that is similar to the last sentence that you underlined in your post – that there are these amazing people that you work under and want desperately to get recognition from. It’s really because I imagine the bosses in “consulting” to be more impressive to me than my bosses in accounting are – who seem wholly human and falliable – so I could picture myself placing more emphasis on the bosses approval in a fast-paced consulting firm.

    Not sure if I know what I’m getting at here – just that in the high-competition corporate world, your job can become your whole life.

  4. I think that comment is more revealing of the character in the novel then of the situation itself.

    Anyway, the motivation is different and so is the result. You’re not working to get recognition. You’re working because you want to learn. Recognition, praise etc. may come as a by product, but it’s not the goal.

    It’s the difference between aiming for the target instead of the prize.

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