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Things: A Story of the Sixties; A Man Asleep

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3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  775 ratings  ·  46 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,881)
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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
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
...more
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
...more
Bob
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
...more
Methodtomadness
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
tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE
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,
...more
Carmen
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
...more
Michael A
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
...more
Deanne
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.
Letianne Zhang
The fatalest problem is that I cannot look inside characters in the story. All of them are hollow images.
Raluca
A bit long but interesting afterwards.
Sam
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
...more
Leah
[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
...more
Lee
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
...more
Will
"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
Jim Elkins
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
Bjorn
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
Asa
This was a short, easy read, but it was also one of the most uncomfortable books I've ever read. The way Perec uses his characters to point out the problem of style over substance and not wanting to put in real work for anything is at turns disturbing and seductive, for the way Sylvie and Jérome thinks matches the way I've felt sometimes, even though I know it wouldn't really satisfy me. They focus on the outer aspects of their life, and have exhaustive fantasies about how everything would be be ...more
Michael
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
Thorlakur
Two stories in one volume, with Things: A Story of the Sixties, being the superior of the two. Its criticism of Western consumerist culture, led it to rapidly being translated into all the languages of Eastern Europe. The book, however remains surprisingly contemporary and its criticism seems mild to the modern eye. The story describes the aspirations and the yearnings of a young Parisian couple and how those wishes can not easily be fulfilled on their income. The young couple's obsession with l ...more
Jonpaul
As "Things" begins-cataloging items of taste and refinement-it almost gives the impression that it will be a hectoring lecture on materialism and consumer culture. As it continues, though, the strength of Perec's writing and the precision with which he describes the inner life of the two main characters elevates it far beyond polemic. In fact, many of the desires, both financially and socially, are a little too uncomfortable and familiar to want to keep reading. Essential reading, period, but de ...more
Manheim Wagner
If I had to use one word to describe both stories it would be ennui. In Things: A Story of the Sixties, Jerome and Sylvie lust after things out of their means and ignore what they can do, eventually creating the ennui their lives become. In A Man Asleep, the ennui is there from the beginning in the unnamed protagonist's desire to do nothing while making his life an undeviating routine. While Perec does make some great observations in the story, it sends the reader into his/her own ennui, which m ...more
David R.  Godine
"I once had the occasion to write to the translator of these books, David Bellos, and I took the opportunity to let him know that Perec is my favorite writer, and that, since a translator is to a large extent the creative force behind a translated work, he, David Bellos, is also, in a palpable way, my favorite writer. Few writers have opened up the possibilities of literary art with as much enthusiasm, mastery, and pleasure as Perec."
— Martin Riker, Associate Director of the Dalkey Archive Press
Pamela
Things is a short novel set in the 60s about a couple living in Paris and Tunisia. Their desire for material objects causes an emptiness regardless of whether they possess or lack objects. It's written in the conditional, so the couple seems hypothetical and typical at the same time. Very arresting, absorbing style. It's hard not to think you are living their life even though the narrator is distant & remote...eerie parallels to the present...

About to read A Man Asleep
Josh Carswell
I have to disagree with nearly every other review here: Things is excellent but A Man Asleep was easily my favourite of the two, so if you've only read the former so far, get to it! A tough but gripping read, I finished it in one night. The two stories combined make for a brilliant comparison: Things about the Icarian ambition of the fledgling couple; A Man Asleep the Daedalus who is left behind(?) 221 pages, and not a word wasted.
keyvan
2 novelas by Perec. 'Les Choses' is the more arresting, still obviously relevant to our consumer culture. 'A Man Asleep', is a scary picture of how a young student drops out, and how a terrible an allowed life of passivity, and lethargy can be. Perec is another hugely under-appreciated writer here in the US, and I intend to work up to reading his masterwork, 'Life -A User's Manual'.
Jason
I enjoyed Things much more than A Man Asleep. Being about the same age/at the same point in my life as the main characters, I found myself really identifying with the way the world appears to the Perec's characters. It doesn't do much to inspire hope for those who haven't "settled in" as far as life is concerned, but it's reassuring to remember we're all in the same boat.
Kurt
As the couple's lives unravel in Things: A Story of the Sixties, I kept hearing Radiohead's Pyramid Song against the backdrop of the Tunisian desert. A Man Asleep is the perfect contrast to the former piece, subtly Thomas Bernhard-esque in its evolution; in the end, two great works by Georges Perec.
Branka Njegic
It's such a shame that Georges Perec died that young. The world would have had so many masterpieces he would have written.
Yet another great book and very philosophical approach to the material world we live in and how some people are only driven by money and welth forgetting more important things in life.
Emily M
Jul 07, 2007 Emily M rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all of my friends
Shelves: owned, school
This is my favorite book that I have read in 2007, thus far. It really was everything I was hoping it could be and more. The way Perec discusses his characters in their relation to consumerism and materialism in 60s France is beautiful and heartbreaking, but something we all can relate to ourselves.
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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
More about Georges Perec...
Life: A User's Manual A Void Species of Spaces and Other Pieces W, or the Memory of Childhood Les choses

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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.” 72 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.” 16 likes
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