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Things: A Story of the Sixties; A Man Asleep

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  967 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 221 pages
Published July 16th 2010 by David R Godine (first published 1965)
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MJ Nicholls
Things: A Story of the Sixties predates all those tiresome novels about corporate-culture ennui, Ballardian death of affect, and dehumanisation through advertising and leaves them weeping into their MaxPower V9 toasters-cum-dildos. What a heartbreaking and beautiful novella! Oh Georges, is it really so sad? Perec narrates from a distance, leaving his characters Sylvie and Jérôme to fumble through a blank lower bourgeois existence, besotted with appliances and desperate to shimmy up the ladder wi ...more
This book brings together two early novellas by Georges Perec, who is best known for Life: A User's Manual. In both cases these are strong on concept and rather weak in characterisation. These are not easy stories to review, and neither is essential to understanding Perec, so I'll just write a few brief notes.

Things follows a Parisian couple in their 20s and explores the way their lives are determined by material possessions, and follow stereotypical paths for all of their attempts at individual
Paul Bryant
Apr 16, 2015 Paul Bryant rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
For a brief shining moment Things by Georges Perec stood on my real-life to-be-read shelf next to Flings by Justin Taylor, and I had half a mind to go the whole hog and buy Strings by Allison Dickson and Wings by Aprilyne Pike to go with them. Georges would have liked that I think. But I read Flings, then Things and Strings and Wings have faded into the unserious penumbra of whimsy which seems to follow me around most days.

This novel is not really a novel, it’s a rueful self-filleting, a wry med
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
The author, if still alive, would be as old as my mother. This was his first book and it made him famous. He started writing it in 1962, the protagonists are two young French, a guy and a girl, the type we call now as "young professionals," the setting is in France, circa 1960s of course.

Fast forward half a century later, I'll have my morning coffee at Starbucks, or at the Figaro nearby, and I would be amidst young people, like the characters in this book, and I'll see them tinkering with their
Simon Hollway
Jul 04, 2015 Simon Hollway rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Perec's snappy Story of the Sixties should be subtitled 'The Rise and Fall of the Hipster.' Modern, timeless and deliciously snarky. The only glaring anachronism is the married protagonists' irregular employment as market researchers - replace that with freelance web or graphic design and Perec has perfectly parodied any couple in their late 20s currently vibing on down in Hoxton, Williamsburg or Fitzroy. Highly recommended, this is a satisifying yet quick read UNLESS you over-indulge in the lit ...more
May 27, 2016 Röhan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2016
Only idiots can talk of Man, Beast, Chaos, and keep a straight face. In order to survive, the most ludicrously tiny insect invests as much, if not more energy than that expended by goodness knows which aviator - a victim of the crazy schedules imposed by the company to which, moreover, he felt proud to belong - in flying over some mountain which was far from being the highest on the planet.

The rat, in his maze, is capable of truly heroic feats: by judiciously connecting the pedals he has to pres
Adam Floridia
Things: A Story of the Sixties gets a very strong 4/5. Review forthcoming--first I've got to get right into A Man Asleep!

A Man Asleep gets a very "eh" 2/5. Further, I'm particularly mad at it for two additional reasons: 1) it isn't a separate book (I mean I couldn't find a separate publication of these two anywhere!), so these two books only count as one book on my reading challenge! (Yeah, I actually think about stuff like that, and yeah it burns my biscuits.) 2) I was so jazzed up after readin
Apr 07, 2012 Methodtomadness rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, to-get
Wow. Things: A Story of the Sixties is so incredibly topical today, it feels oddly modern, even though so many of the brands and lifestyle nods it name-checks aren't on anybody's radar today. There are sloggy bits (the first few pages are like a description from a French 1960s "House Beautiful" or something), but once you get into the somewhat flat third-person writing style (which doesn't allow for much interiority -- perhaps fittingly!), it's a fabulous little novella. And it's a scathing crit ...more
Michael A
Mar 04, 2014 Michael A rated it liked it
I give it three stars based on the two together. "Things" was by far my favourite book here.

Perec, if only for "Life: A User's Manual", is one of my favourite people ever. Life is a wonderful book about the possibilities of a story in an age of excessive post-modern exploration and specifically, I think, in response to the question of how one writes a good novel when others have already tried to exhaust the more conventional forms (Robbe-Grillet and Beckett, etc.). The idea there was simple in t
Dec 11, 2009 tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
2 early pre-OuLiPo novels of Perec. Given that Perec is in my top 10 favorite writers, I read everything that I come across by him & he can, basically, 'do no wrong'. As is usually the case, I like creative people who continue to be creative: ie: who manage to make new work that's significantly different from their older work. Perec exemplifies this. Each thing I've read by him has been significantly different from each other, each has been strong.

I'd call both novels vaguely (or, perhaps,
Oct 06, 2014 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first two books by Perec display some of his influences and the foundation of some of his stylistic tendencies. The meticulous cataloging of objects and decor, room by room, in various dwellings presages the later Life: A User's Manual and evokes Alain Robbe-Grillet, plus no Frenchman can write about the hypnagogic state of awareness without someone thinking of Proust.

"Things" draws on Perec's own experience as a young man of working in the nascent field of market research (as well as some t
Apr 22, 2013 Bjorn rated it liked it
Shelves: france
Les Choses is very noticeably a debut novel. Which isn't to say it's bad. As a sarcastic nod to Sartre (as if the title didn't give it away) it's not crap, as a satire of Mad Men-style materialism (it's subtitled a history of the 1960s, published in 1963) it's lost none of whatever sting it had - living in Stockholm's hipster neighbourhood in 2013, I know these people personally. (Hell, I probably am them.) And even if the satire is a bit too obvious, Perec delves beneath it - turning the never- ...more
May 04, 2010 Carmen rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club, fiction
The first novel in this book, Things: A Story of the Sixties, outlines a 20-something couple in 1960s Paris. They are incredibly materialistic, and the only interesting thing that they really do in the whole book is decide to temporarily move to Tunisia. Which of course they hate. I wish something else of note had happened, because these two characters were pretty crazy (in an interesting way).

I did not finish the second novel, A Man Asleep. The first half describes a college (or maybe grad scho
Oct 12, 2011 Deanne rated it really liked it
Of the two books in this one volume I prefered Things, I've done the emigration thing about 3 times now and I'm considering a 4th. I also liked the use of the possessions of the story in driving the story on.
Jul 27, 2015 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
Both of these stories are unlike anything I've ever read before. It takes a minute to get your head around but once you do, I think they're both brilliant
Letianne Zhang
Mar 22, 2010 Letianne Zhang rated it liked it
The fatalest problem is that I cannot look inside characters in the story. All of them are hollow images.
Dec 05, 2016 Jeroen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I was in my early twenties, I lived by myself in a huge, somewhat derelict building. It had two floors, three bedrooms, of which I left two empty. It was in a city in which I knew few people, and liked even fewer. I studied there, which amounted to about six hours of classes a week. I didn't do much else. I hardly read books, hardly went out to meet old friends. Instead, I walked. Aimlessly, fruitlessly; pointless walks to dismal places. Dismal walks to pointless places. At night, I couldn' ...more
Dec 17, 2015 Tường-Vân rated it really liked it
Depressed patients who are extremely gifted with words?
Jul 17, 2013 Raluca rated it liked it
A bit long but interesting afterwards.
Alan Chen
Nov 02, 2016 Alan Chen rated it really liked it
Things: A Story of the Sixties
A young couple seeks to not fall into the trap of climbing the corporate ladder, starting a family and becoming comfortably bourgeois. Instead they stay at their entry level jobs, working only when they want, and getting together with like-minded friends. Eventually, there friends start caving but they continue on in the same way. They feel like they're in a rut and leaves the country to be foreign language teachers.

A Man Asleep
Suddenly our protagonist decides to
Francesca M
Mar 16, 2017 Francesca M rated it liked it
In all the books of Perec I’ve read so far, there are always parts I totally like and others which I find a bit too slow and slightly tedious. I have to say the same apply here. I found Things: A Story of the Sixties brilliant, moving, originally written. A short novel to read all in one go and which, at the end of the day, still fits perfectly within the young people difficulties in finding their dimension our contemporary society. Instead A Man Asleep was extremely slow, I struggle to keep my ...more
Aleaa Ali
Feb 21, 2017 Aleaa Ali rated it did not like it
this star is only for the last chapter, the rest of the story was either bad translated or so boring i wanted to just scream myself.
Jim Elkins
Oct 09, 2012 Jim Elkins rated it liked it
Shelves: french
A Man Asleep was published in 1967, and translated in 1990. It is about a young man who gives up his examinations, his friends, and his purpose in life. He does as little as possible, wants as little as possible, takes as little interest in life as he can. He is "asleep."[return][return]The interest here is the form of life Perec is trying to imagine. Here are some possibilities, starting with ones I don't think are right:[return][return]1. Because the character does very little, and spends days ...more
Apr 18, 2013 Sam rated it it was amazing
Oh! You Pretty Things

"De petits êtres dociles, les fidèles reflets du monde qui les narguait. Ils étaient enfoncés jusqu'au cou dans un gâteau dont ils n'auraient jamais que les miettes."

L’écriture de Perec a deux faces, celle d’un scalpel et celle d’un pinceau. Son écriture est à la fois chirurgicale et impressionniste. Il dissèque autant qu’il peint. Et le lire relève autant d’assister à une opération qu’admirer un tableau de maître. Chaque bibelot décrit est un coup de pinceau, chaque chapi
Nov 01, 2013 Will rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"They lived in a quaint, low-ceilinged and tiny flat overlooking a garden. And as they remember their garret - a gloomy, narrow, overheated corridor with clinging smells - they lived in their flat, to begin with, in a kind of intoxication, refreshed each morning by the sound of chirping birds. They would open the windows and, for many minutes, they would gaze, in utter happiness, at their courtyard. The building was old, not yet at all at the point of collapse, but dowdy and cracked. The corrido ...more
Aug 20, 2010 Leah rated it really liked it
[Review on Things only - for now:]

Things puts a new spin on the whole "The things you own end up owning you" principle. The couple at the outskirts of this story (I was going to say 'center of this story' but really they are both central and peripheral) at times knowingly buy in to the belief that they are deliberately purchasing things or conducting market research on things knowing they themselves do so with an end to fill a void to provide pleasure and/or status. But at other times, they seem
Jan 21, 2011 Lee rated it really liked it
Two early novellas in one book. "Things," the first novella, includes maybe some of the best autobiographical-seeming expository stretches (no dialogue, no traditional scenes) about life from age 21 to 30 (albeit here in the '60s in Paris and Tunisia) I've read. Perec's obsessive detail/description is like Nabokov but not as precious/obtuse, plus he's consistently insightful, often unusual, and so generous in terms of perception and wisdom. Someone should reissue this novella solo.

"A Man Asleep
Suzanne Walker
Dec 18, 2016 Suzanne Walker rated it really liked it
Meet Jerome and Sylvie. Through the things they have and the things they want. Vacuity was never so fascinating. Bret Easton Ellis, take note.
May 16, 2016 Manasa rated it liked it
I was drawn to Things by an excerpt I had come across of the original French, and I read this more as a guide to the French version than as a standalone novel. Leaving aside the peculiarities arising from this dual reading, I found the theme fairly engaging, if a little repetitive. Buried among the descriptions of, well, things and more things, real and imagined, were many visceral moments that struck a chord - the pleasures of the cinema, the days of innocent happiness, the occasional doubts th ...more
While a few scenes were beautifully described, particularly the soulness dinner parties, the provincial tedium of Sfax, and the disaster of being poor in a material society, this meditation on proto-hipsters lacked any real plot, and the ending was wholly unfulfilling. The way of writing, with cascading lists of items, was like Borges without the absurdity. It must have been a nightmare to translate, since many of the eponymous "things" are truly obscure, with gradations of material, color, text ...more
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Georges Perec was a highly-regarded French novelist, filmmaker and essayist. He was a member of the Oulipo group. Many of his novels and essays abound with experimental wordplay, lists and attempts at classification, and they are usually tinged with melancholy.

Perec's first novel, Les Choses (Things: A Story of the Sixties) was awarded the Prix Renaudot in 1965.

In 1978, Perec won the prix Médicis
More about Georges Perec...

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“As the hours, the days, the weeks, the seasons slip by, you detach yourself from everything. You discover, with something that sometimes almost resembles exhilaration, that you are free. That nothing is weighing you down, nothing pleases or displeases you. You find, in this life exempt from wear and tear and with no thrill in it other than these suspended moments, in almost perfect happiness, fascinating, occasionally swollen by new emotions. You are living in a blessed parenthesis, in a vacuum full of promise, and from which you expect nothing. You are invisible, limpid, transparent. You no longer exist. Across the passing hours, the succession of days, the procession of the seasons, the flow of time, you survive without joy and without sadness. Without a future and without a past. Just like that: simply, self evidently, like a drop of water forming on a drinking tap on a landing.” 94 likes
“ما يثير انفعالك، ما يخيفك، لكنه أحيانًا يهيجك، ليس الطابع المباغت لتحولك، إنما هو تحديدًا الشعور الغامض والشديد الوطأة أنك لا تعيش تحولًا، أن شيئًا لم يتغير،أنك كنت هكذا على الدوام حتى إن لم تعلم هذا حتى اليوم: ذاك في المرآة المشقوقة ليس وجهك الجديد، إنما الأقنعة هي التي تهاوت، حجرتك جعلتها تنصهر، الخمول جعلها تسيخ، أقنعة الطريق القويم، الأفكار اليقينية الجميلة.” 22 likes
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