Things: A Story of the Sixties; A Man Asleep (Verba Mundi) (Verba Mundi (Paperback))
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With the American publication of Life, a User's Manual in 1987, Georges Perec was immediately recognized in the U.S. as one of this century's most innovative writers. Now Godine is pleased to issue two of his most powerful novels in one volume: Things, in an authoritative new translation, and A Man Asleep, making its first English appearance. Both provoked strong reactions when they first appeared in the 1960s; both which speak with disquieting immediacy to the conscience of today's readers. In each tale Perec subtly probes our obsession with society's trappings the seductive mass of things that crams our lives, masquerading as stability and meaning.
Jerome and Sylvie, the young, upwardly mobile couple in Things, lust for the good life. "They wanted life's enjoyment, but all around them enjoyment was equated with ownership." Surrounded by Paris's tantalizing exclusive boutiques, they exist in a paralyzing vacuum of frustration, caught between the fantasy of "the film they would have liked to live" and the reality of life's daily mundanities.
In direct contrast with Jerome and Sylvie's cravings, the nameless student in A Man Asleep attempts to purify himself entirely of material desires and ambition. He longs "to want nothing. Just to wait, until there is nothing left to wait for. Just to wander, and to sleep." Yearning to exist on neutral ground as "a blessed parenthesis," he discovers that this wish is by its very nature a defeat.
Accessible, sobering, and deeply involving, each novel distills Perec's unerring grasp of the human condition as well as displaying his rare comic talent. His generosity of observation is both detached and compassionate.
psychologists. They would linger at the dinner table. They would talk about themselves and about things in general, about nothing in particular, about their tastes and their ambitions. They would scour the town to find the one really comfortable bar it simply had to have, and, until a very late hour, in front of whiskies, brandies, gins and tonic, they would conjure up, with an almost ritualised carefree abandon, the stories of their love-affairs, their desires, their travels, the things they
were alert to all signs of permanence: they wanted to be rich. And if they still refused to make themselves rich, it was because they did not need a salary. Their imagination, their culture allowed them to think only in millions. They often went out in the evening, sniffing the air, ogling the window displays. They would push on past the thirteenth arrondissement, close to home, and of which they knew only Avenue des Gobelins because of its four cinemas, they would skirt around the sinister Rue
grainy wooden rings which would slide back at the merest touch. There, the carpet would give way to an almost yellow woodblock floor, partly covered by three faded rugs. It would be a living room about twenty-three feet long by ten feet wide. On the left, in a kind of recess, there would be a large sofa upholstered in worn black leather, with pale cherrywood bookcases on either side, heaped with books in untidy piles. Above the sofa, a mariner's chart would fill the whole length of that section
unusable volume, the flat was altogether too big and too bare for them to be able to live in it. There would have had to be five or six of them, a group of good friends drinking, eating, talking. But they were on their own, and lost. The living room, containing the camp bed on which they had put a small mattress and a colourful bedspread, the thick raffia mat strewn with a few cushions, and, above all, the books (the row of collected works in the Pléiade editions, the run of periodicals, the four
them in order; but, precisely, you do not have to: you are allowed to use one space, then a different one, come back to the first, jump to the third, the fourth, back to the second again. Nevertheless, you rarely succeed; there always comes a point when the game is blocked, when, with half or a third of the cards already in order, you can no longer fill a space without turning up a king every time. In theory, you have the right to two more attempts: you just have to leave the ordered cards where