I was reminded of this story by a question about "stolen time" that I found by accident on this community. Right now, I tried to find it again, but I failed. Anyway, my question is definitely not a duplicate, because in that case it was "stealing time" (by unit of hours), and in my case it is about "rationing time" by units of days.

I don't remember when I read it, but it was at least 30 years ago. Short fiction, but I don't remember how short. Probably not even novella length, novelette or short story.

In my story, time comes with "rationing stamps". Depending on how useful they are for society, some people have 30 days a month even in January, March, May, etc. Some have 28, some even less. Somehow, people have generally accepted this fact of life. They fall asleep some day (30th, 28th, etc.) of the month and wake up on the 1st of the next month. They know some people even live on the 31st of some months, but OK, they accept it. I am not sure I made it clear enough. During those last days of the month, in the point of view of those who "have tickets", it is not the case that those "without tickets" are seen as sleeping. They just do not exist at all. Even worse, during those days it is as if they have never existed until the beginning of the next month when suddenly it is the case that they have always existed. It is a bit hard to explain, but in the story, this is made clear.

What really becomes shocking is that there is a black-market for time where you can, not only buy a January 31st even if you don't have that "rationing stamp" but also January 32nd, 33rd, etc.

When it becomes known that some people manage to live up to 45 days a months, this becomes insufferable.

Alas, I don't remember the end....

Incidentally, if anyone can find what is the question (with answer) I found by accident, and that dealt with stealing time, I'd appreciate it, but of course this is not my question, since this would by definition be a duplicate. I think it has to do with a writer who cannot fulfil his commitments because his time is stolen from him, and therefore his days are too short...

  • Parts of this remind me of Farmer's Dayworld; people having an allotment of time, being suspended when not awake, an illicit group that steals more awake time...
    – DavidW
    Nov 21 '19 at 22:26
  • The general idea seems the same, but I think that in story my most people live many consecutive days, typically more than 20, and just miss a few days at the end of each month. Not something as extreme as most people just living one day per week. But indeed, the basic idea is the same.
    – Alfred
    Nov 21 '19 at 22:31
  • 1
    "Story about a writer who's missing his deadlines because time is literally being stolen from him each day" scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/156902/…
    – DavidW
    Nov 21 '19 at 22:57
  • @DavidW Yes ! This is exactly the one that reminded me of my story. But as I said, it is not the one I am looking for.
    – Alfred
    Nov 22 '19 at 1:16

La Carte by Marcel Aymé (reproduced in translation here)

It's written in the form of a diary and originally published in French in 1942.

The Government decides that people can only live a set number of days a month based on their perceived value to society. A booming industry in black market time ration tickets starts up, but obviously the rich do a lot better out of this, some living more days than there are in a month.

1 July . -- When I speak with people about June 35th they don't know what I'm talking about. There's no trace of those five days in their memory. Fortunately, I met a few people who lived them fraudulently and I was able to talk about that time with them. It turned out to be a rather curious conversation. For me, yesterday was June 35th. For others, yesterday was the 32nd or the 43rd. At the restaurant, I saw a man who had lived until the 66th of June, which represents quite a supply of tickets.

I struggled to find a decent reference for this, but google translate does a decent job of this French Wikipedia entry.

  • 3
    I've taken the liberté of adding in a quote from Karen Reshkin's excellent translation.
    – Valorum
    Nov 22 '19 at 20:27
  • OMG ! You are right ! I did not remember that of course I had read it in the french original ! Marcel Aymé indeed !!! Just his kind of sick humor !
    – Alfred
    Nov 23 '19 at 17:33

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