Novel about banks in London, review

This video says about itself:

Graveyards of the Banks – I did it for the money. Book trailer

6 February 2015

Athens Publishers March 2015
Author Nyla Nox
Voice London Euro Nyla
Cover Art Potamus Studios
Music Frank Quickmix Hassas

Graveyards of the Banks by Nyla Nox

‘Graveyards of the Banks’ is a haunting trilogy about Nyla’s journey through the gothic maze of the Most Successful Bank in the Universe in London. A group of jobless humanities graduates abandon all hope and enter the Third Basement for a life on the graveyard shift, a toxic bubble of bitches and bullies where the Bank conducts human experiments to select the Fittest to Rule.

Author Nyla Nox worked on that night shift herself for seven years, treated by the Bank as the lowest of the low, hidden away in the Building Without A Name, right in the heart of one of the world’s most powerful institutions in the City of London. Her voice is still unheard, the story of her hidden tribe is still untold.

Volume 1: I did it for the money.

How does it feel when you spend night after night in an iron chair with no toilet breaks and fear of being fired at the end of your shift? Hundreds of bankers roam the notorious Seventh Floor of the Bank with its filthy kitchen and flea infested carpets, forced to fight each other for survival, deliberately kept in a state of anger and frustration by their superiors who are grooming them for ruthless leadership (and the big money). Their shouting resembles constant gunfire. Predators to a man, and Nyla is their prey. But almost all of them will fail.

How do you live, how do you love?

Can confident Peter, who kisses Nyla in Cobblemaker’s Lane, fulfill his dreams of leaving for a Better World? How far will shift leaders Claire and Ethan, who rule the graveyard with absolute power (no breaks, no backtalk – in fact, no talking at all – and only one ear phone in!) go to prove their supremacy? And what about the inscrutable bank-wide institution of S&I whose representative survey the Center on their elevated platform, forcing Nyla nightly to recite her mistakes in public before she is sent home without pay?

After a life time frittered away in the unprofitable humanities, Nyla needs the money. And as hope and dignity are stripped away, night after gruelling night, a mental fog descends on her. Is there even a world left outside the Most Successful Bank in the Universe?

And how can you find sleep in the day time while the Monsters are Arising?

Author Nyla Nox‘s new book, to be published on 6 March 2015, is called Graveyards of the Banks – I did it for the money. It is the first part of a trilogy. This first book ends with a cliffhanger. A new worker, called Vera, arrives at the bank. She will play a major, dramatic, role in the sequels. Which role exactly, we will only know when the sequels will be published.

This work of fiction (as a statement at the beginning of the book reminds readers) is based on the non-fictional reality of the author’s time working at a United States-owned bank in the City of London; a time which was at least as disastrous for her as the time of British poet Attila the Stockbroker when he had a job as a stockbroker’s clerk.

Nyla studied anthropology, but could not get work in that field. Her bank job is at the graphics department. She is not an official bank employee, but works through a sub-contracting scheme undermining workers’ rights. She had to declare she was not a trade union member; workers who joined unions were sacked immediately.

The ‘graveyards’ in the book’s title refer to the bank building in the book being next to a cemetery. And they refer to Nyla working with furniture arranged in cross-like shapes around her. They also refer to her bank work as a ‘graveyard’ for the hopes she and colleagues had when they studied humanities. They also refer to her working the ‘graveyard shift’; working from midnight-8am. Not good for one’s health; though some other bank workers have even worse work times, which may result in deaths. Nyla Nox did not work without pay; though some bank bosses advocate that. However, if she would get sick, she would get no money at all.

Late in the nineteenth century, another author, Robert Walser from Switzerland, also worked at a bank. Walser is seen as a major influence on Franz Kafka. If one compares Walser’s writing style to Nyla Nox, then the difference is obvious: mainly compact, short sentences in Graveyards of the Banks. Often long, complex sentences in Walser’s works. Walser sometimes has protagonists working at banks in his short stories, but bank work is not the main subject.

The content of Graveyards of the Banks is somewhat reminiscent of Kafka’s The Castle, in its descriptions of labyrinthine hierarchy and bureaucracy; though architecture and technology are 21st century. Hierarchical bureaucracy, reminiscent in some ways of fascism, the author writes; a brand of fascism without swastikas and SS uniforms. Nyla Nox also compares bank work conditions to Mordor, the land of evil in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. ‘They [the top level bureaucrats] were the 1%. We were the 99%’. But, at least in this first book, a 99% without an Occupy Wall Street or other movement to inspire them; most of the time, the oligarchy’s tactics to divide and rule the 99% work.

Lots of talk in the banks’ propaganda about the ‘new economy’, the brave new world where, because of the information technology revolution, there would be no more economic crises etc. etc. Clearly, the novel here describes ideas of some years ago. Echos of the time before the bubble burst.

The CEO of the bank is ‘Tom’ in New York City. The lower ranking employees never meet him. Like ‘Big Brother’ in George Orwell’s 1984, one might ask whether ‘Tom’ really exists, outside his propaganda e-mails to employees. Also somewhat reminiscent of 1984 in Graveyards of the Banks is Nyla’s love affair (is it a love affair?) with Peter. Like for Winston Smith in 1984 Julia is basically the only person with whom he can talk critically about their environment, Peter is basically the only person to whom Nyla can talk (mainly in the real graveyard just outside the bank) critically about their financial sector jobs.

Conclusion: a really interesting book not only for people interested in literature, or in London city, but also for people interested in how capitalism works. Not how it works as depicted in glossy public relations booklets like the ones Nyla worked at designing; but how it works in practice behind the scenes.

This novel is available here.

A crowdfunding campaign for the book is here.

Now, from literature to another art form: music; but roughly on the same subject.

This music video, recorded in the USA, is by reggae-influenced British punk rock band The Members.

It says about itself:

The Members singing Offshore Banking Business, live at the Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles.

This clip was taken from the movie “Urgh A Music War“.

The song was written by a band member, “JC” Carroll, who himself then worked at a bank.

The Marco on the Bass blog writes about the song:

What made me a fan of the band as a young and impressionable suburban dwelling reggae and ska fanatic was The Members prophetic and iconic track ‘Offshore Banking Business’. My introduction to the song came during a screening of ‘Urgh – A Music War’ while I was at University in the early 80’s. My initial introduction to the band had been through their big U.S. hit ‘Working Girl’ which was a staple on MTV in 1982. Therefore I was unprepared for the brass and bass-driven skank of the song that featured singer Nicky Tesco toasting “a lesson in home economics.” The song was a searing condemnation of global financial corruption, based on Carroll’s working experience of merchant banking. Bahrain and the Bahamas banned it, the latter’s parliament calling the band “hop heads singing horse manure.” …

The song “Offshore Banking Business” was amazingly prophetic. Tell me about the genesis of this song from the music to the lyrics. It was quite a detailed look at a financial practice very few people were aware of until very recently. What was it like to work with Rico Rodriguez who recorded a fantastic solo for the song?

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