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I heard a synopsis of this story in the early 2000s.

The story is set on a different world, one that has two suns. The suns may have been of different colour. While the first sun is up, the people living under it are forced to construct an enormous building (I think under the supervision of robots). When the sun goes down, they go home.

Now the second sun comes up, and a different people is put to work (probably by the same robots). Their task is to demolish an enormous building.

It becomes obvious that both peoples work on the same building, neither actually making any progress.

What is the story's title and who wrote it?

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    Sounds like a rip-off of "The Good Work" by Theodore L. Thomas, set in a big building on earth. Most everyone is on the dole; working is a rare privilege of the lucky few. Our guy gets a job on the crew that goes around the building tightening all the screws. [SPOILER WARNING] His friend gets a job on the loosening crew. – user14111 May 6 '14 at 22:01
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    @user14111 - It's either a ripoff or, more likely the OP is mis-remembering. – Valorum Oct 4 '14 at 23:12
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    Makes me think of the Fraggles and Dozers. – Omegacron Feb 16 '15 at 22:11
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    @Richard also consider he "heard a synopsis", didn't even watch it himself. – o0'. Jul 4 '15 at 8:49
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    @o0' Who watches the synopsis of a book? – DCOPTimDowd Oct 10 '17 at 19:36
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+50

I've got a short story here that quite matches your description. It's by Herbert W. Franke and appeared in his (IMHO excellent, stunning, and ageless) collection "Der grüne Komet", chapter 46 "Das Gebäude" (for the non-german readers: "The green comet" - "The building"). I don't know if the collection has ever been translated.

Die blaue Sonne war unter den Horizont gesunken, die rote Sonne stieg siegreich empor. [...] Fontain war Maurer. Das heißt, er durfte die Steine übereinanderschichten, die die Träger aus den Feldern herbeischleppten. [...] Inspektionsroboter strichen unablässig hinter den Reihen der Schaffenden vorbei. Erst in ihrer Freizeit, in den wenigen Stunden der blauen Nacht, die ihnen vor dem Schlafen blieben, unterhielten sie sich darüber – über das Gebäude das sie errichteten [...] Das Gebäude erstreckte sich weit nach allen Richtungen; noch keiner hatte die ganze Insel gesehen [...] Das violette Leuchten über der Stadt zeigte den Morgen an – die letzten roten Strahlen verblaßten, das Blau des Tages breitete sich aus. [...] Hassan war Arbeiter. Das heißt, er meißelte Steine von den Mauern herunter. [...]

English translation (using Google translate and some manual improvements):

The blue sun had sunk below the horizon, the red sun rose victoriously. [...] Fontain was a bricklayer. That is, he was allowed to stack the stones, which were carried out of the fields by the bearers. [...] Inspection robots were passing behind the ranks of the creators. It was only in their spare time, during the few hours of the blue night that remained before sleeping, that they talked about it – the building they built [...] The building stretched far in all directions; no one had yet seen the whole island [...] The violet glow over the city was heralding the morning – the last red rays faded, the blue of the day spread. [...] Hassan was a worker. That is, he cut stones from the walls. [...]

  • Welcome to SFF:SE. This answer would be improved by inclusion of any passages which demonstrate that this story matches OP's criteria, even if we need to Google Translate them. – Politank-Z Oct 10 '17 at 19:11
  • Can you explain the parts that seem to specifically fit this story? – JMac Oct 10 '17 at 19:30
  • @JMac I honestly tried to cite the parts that obviously match the features the OP mentioned, without giving away too much of the plot. Can you specify what else you expect? Is there a FAQ what exactly is demanded in answers to story-identification questions? – Murphy Oct 10 '17 at 19:38
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    @Murphy Before the translation was added, even just pointing out the specific details that matched such as "There are two suns." "It was an enormous building" "When the other sun comes up, they begin to undo the work" would have helped. For an English reader, the answer isn't particularly useful or self-contained by just saying "This seems like a match" without pointing out why. It's quite a bit better now that I see the relevance of the quotes. – JMac Oct 10 '17 at 19:47
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    An English translation "The Building" appeared in F&SF, June 1998. The German original was published in 1960, about the same time as "The Good Work" by Theodore L. Thomas in If, February 1959 mentioned in comments on the question. (Links are to the Internet Archive.) – user14111 Oct 10 '17 at 23:08

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