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Things: A Story of the Sixties; A Man Asleep

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3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,208 ratings  ·  76 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 Verba Mundi (first published 1965)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  1,208 ratings  ·  76 reviews


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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
Hugh
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
...more
Paul Bryant
Apr 16, 2015 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
...more
Steven Godin
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: france, fiction, paris
Two intriguing and poignant novellas (Perec's first published work) that you can clearly see had a influence when approaching Life: A Users Manual years later. Forging his trademark iconoclastic literary style that fully emerges in later work, his technique of crowding fictional space with an abundance of almost rococo richly details and decor is also apparent here. So is an air of at first unnoticeable melancholy, that seems to drift around his characters like a ghost.

'Things: A Story of the S
...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
Jim Elkins
Oct 09, 2012 added it
Shelves: french
An Unclear Exercise in Writing

"A Man Asleep" was published in 1967, and translated in 1990. It is about a young man who gives up his school 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."

The interest here isn't the form of life Perec is trying to imagine, because this is an exercise in writing. (It isn't like Ottessa Moshfegh's "My Year of Rest and Relaxation," superficiall
...more
Simon Hollway
Jul 04, 2015 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
Michael
120119: these are two short works. it is an error to think of them as ‘novels’. it is mistaken also to think they are nonfiction ‘essays’. in the first case, there is not much interest in shaping the usual furniture of fiction short or long, in the second, there is no careful deployment of rhetoric, assertions, serious arguments, to give the idea that the text means or refers much to any difficult idea...

in fact, the ideas are simple, in ‘things’ the reader is given descriptive form to the idea
...more
Röhan
May 27, 2016 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
...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
Jeroen
Dec 05, 2016 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
Wayland Smith
Apr 23, 2017 rated it liked it
This combines two novels from Georges Perec. I admit they weren't hugely to my taste, but they were well written and an interesting study in contrasts.

Things is about a Parisian couple in their 20's. They have a deep hunger to live the good life, and try any and everything to get there. The story is largely about materialism, and people not living the lives they think they deserve.

A Man Asleep is the story of a young student who veers in completely the opposite direction, and desires nothing,
...more
Methodtomadness
Apr 07, 2012 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
Lee Klein
Jan 21, 2011 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
...more
Nick Grammos
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Things made me melancholic of the inner life of my early 20s when I stared at shop windows, in love, wanting what I didn't have, imagining the lifestyle posed in magazines and movies and shop fronts. Its a time of desire, longing, wanting, when objects easily influence your reason. You know why lifestyle marketing works, Perec didn't write sociology and advertising copy, but he got to the heart of this moment in life and our relationship to capitalism.
Michael A
Mar 04, 2014 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
...more
tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE
Dec 11, 2009 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, not
...more
Bjorn
Apr 22, 2013 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
Bob
Oct 06, 2014 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
...more
Carmen
May 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, book-club
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
George
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Two original, very well written, thought provoking, mesmerising novellas. "Things" is about the plight of a young Paris couple, Jerome, 24 and Sylie, 22. They are market researchers living in Paris in the 1960s. They live in an apartment, eat out, entertain, read newspapers, join protest marches. After a few years they become bored with their existent and decide to live in Tunisia for a few months. I enjoyed the distant, clinical, detached, third person narrative that is uncritical an ...more
Andrew
So we start with Things, a rather charming story about that hipster couple you know that are always trying to point out the ways in which it may look like they have sold out, but they totally haven't, promise. A Man Asleep is a rather more, nail-biting, more deliberately Oulipo affair. I appreciate it because it marks Perec's move from that sort of charming, a-bit-of-Godard-here, a bit-of-Tati-there, very '50s/'60s French writing into weirder, wilder territory. It's not a great first step -- hel ...more
Ivan Labayne
Sep 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: pranses, experimento
we were packing our things and moving cities when i read this, i finished reading this, "before they had at least a passion for possessing...and then what? What had they done?" the author spoke of sylvie and jerome. In the epilogue, it said "the quest for truth itself must be true," barring any formal disjunct. In "A Man Falls Asleep," a lake is born in the middle of the man's head, and is that not pretty, water flowing, dancing like sea somewhere near your cerebellum?
Emily M
Jul 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Deanne
Oct 12, 2011 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.
Letianne Zhang
Mar 22, 2010 rated it liked it
The fatalest problem is that I cannot look inside characters in the story. All of them are hollow images.
Raluca
Jul 17, 2013 rated it liked it
A bit long but interesting afterwards.
Beth
Jul 27, 2015 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
Tường-Vân
Dec 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Depressed patients who are extremely gifted with words?
Cristian Rusu
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
In the beginning the excessive descriptive details bored me. It was too thorough, but I persevered and I found myself absorbed by the story. The stories are more introspective than anything else. I loved the way it's written, the thoughts it conveyed, the observations. It's just too good to be true in some parts. So many great passages. Way too relatable. A great read.

Passages:

The paths they were following, the values they were gradually adopting, their outlook, their desires and their ambition
...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.

Born in a working-class district of Paris, Perec was the only son of Icek Judko and Cyrla (Schulewicz) Peretz, Polish Jews who had emigra
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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.” 130 likes
“To want nothing. Just to wait, until there is nothing left to wait for. Just to wander, and to sleep. To let yourself be carried along by the crowds, and the streets. To follow the gutters, the fences, the water’s edge. To walk the length of the embankments, to hug the walls. To waste your time. To have no projects, to feel no impatience. To be without desire, or resentment, or revolt.” 28 likes
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