open access


This article explores how Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation portrays the relationship between the self and the world against the backdrop of the 9/11 terror attacks. It shows that distance emerges as the central component of the narrator’s world alienation, which also crucially informed Hannah Arendt’s critique of modernity as developed in her seminal work, The Human Condition. By revisiting some of the philosopher’s key ideas in light of more recent events, the article discusses how the novel’s depiction of sleep as action reflects on the individual’s sense of participation, freedom, and self-worth in late-capitalist society. Finally, the article situates the novel’s epiphanic ending in twenty-first-century debates on the aesthetics of terror, by which the novel not only negotiates the viability of its narrator’s project but also subtly reveals the continuities between its setting in 2001 and its publication date in 2018.