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The 7th Function of Language

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3.74  ·  Rating details ·  4,135 ratings  ·  709 reviews
'One of the funniest, most riotously inventive and enjoyable novels you’ll read this year' - Observer

Roland Barthes is knocked down in a Paris street by a laundry van. It’s February 1980 and he has just come from lunch with Francois Mitterrand, a slippery politician locked in a battle for the Presidency. Barthes dies soon afterwards. History tells us it was an accident.

But
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Paperback, 400 pages
Published January 4th 2018 by Vintage (first published August 19th 2015)
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BlackOxford
He’s Not the Messiah; He’s a Naughty Boy

Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the surrealist English television and film troupe, famous for among other things the hysterically funny Life of Brian, was the new wave of British comedy in the 1970’s. The focus of Monty Python’s humor was not so much human behaviour as it was the very meaning of meaning to human beings - its relativity, its conventionality, and its inherent absurdity.

Roland Barthes, the motivator of the action in The 7th Function of Language
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Fionnuala
On the second page of this novel, in a scene set during the Spring of 1980, the author's first person voice suddenly interrupts the omniscient narrator to wonder about a tiny detail of the scenario the narrator is in the process of setting up. The author's voice is speaking to the reader from thirty-five years after the event the narrator is describing, and since the event really happened—a famous literary figure, knocked down while crossing the street—accuracy in the setting should be important ...more
Jonfaith
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What would you do if you ruled the world?” The gigolo replied that he would abolish all laws. Barthes said: “Even grammar?

This is a League of Extraordinary Gentleman for the French Theory set. Each page tumbles with allusions and citations, a whodunit which explores the esoteric and the political. I was smitten from the opening page and matters progressed from there. Despite some meta crabwalking I was fervently on-board, routinely laughing and marveling, enjoying the goat rodeo of the mind, my
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Meike
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: france, 2018-read
Okay, I have to give Binet 5 stars for writing a book full to the brim with ideas, in which every sentence contains at least one thought, and that manages to be all kinds of contradictory things at once: High-brow and low-brow, noir murder mystery and comedy, social analysis and satire, pulp and linguistic textbook, Sherlock Holmes and Austin Powers, and so much more. Yes, the book does have some flaws, but it is so fun, intelligent and daring that I want to applaud Binet for his wild imaginatio ...more
Philippe Malzieu
French intelligentsia hate this book. It is a good sign.
Roland Barthes is dead. Murder? Perhaps. Who killed barthes who had discovered the 7th language function, able to give the power. It is an improbable thriller, Tintin at the structuralists. We meet Foucault in the gay backrooms, Sollers, Kristeva Chomsky, Searle, Eco, Jacobson...from Bologna to Cornell.
But especially, it is funny, hilarious, incredibly funny for a french book. Generally, during "rentrée littéraire", books are sinister, au
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Tony
Roland Barthes, who wrote Death of the Author, is in turn killed by this author. Other acts of violence or mere indignities happen to “real” people. Antonioni, the film director has a finger chopped off. Umberto Eco gets pissed on by a hippie. Phillipe Sollers . . . well: The sophist with the doctor’s beak wedges Sollers’s balls between the two blades of the shears, firmly grips the handles, and presses them together. Snip. Camille Paglia - A young, short-haired woman, who looks a bit like a cr ...more
Katia N
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
What it is? It is a mixture of a thriller with the tour de force of linguistics and literary theories. Binet picked up the year 1980, took real famous people and real events and has built a fictional plot around them. He also created two main fictional characters for the connection between his plot and the rest. The book effortlessly mixes real ideas in linguistics with the fictional actions by the characters (both the invented and and the real ones). The premise is intriguing: what if Roland Ba ...more
Paul Fulcher
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
In Bologna, he had sex with Bianca in a seventeenth-century amphitheatre and narrowly escaped death in the bombed train station. Here, he has almost been stabbed in a library at night by a linguistics philosopher and has witnesses a decidedly mythological doggy-style sex scene on a photocopier. He met Giscard in the Elysee palace, bumped into Foucault in a gay sauna, took part in a car chase which ended with an attempt on his life, saw a man kill another man with a poisonous umbrella, discovered ...more
Viv JM
Well, that was an unexpected delight!

I can't say I would ever have chosen to read this book, had it not been longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize (and been the only book from the said longlist stocked by my local bookshop). From the blurb I had imagined it would be rather pretentious and self congratulatory and whilst, there was occasionally an element of the latter, overall I found it jolly good fun. I loved the evolving relationship between Bayard and his sidekick Simon. I loved t
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Marc
To be honest: I don't like the thriller genre and I’m rather skeptical towards postmodernism as a philosophical movement. The fact that I have given this book a positive rating (3 stars is quite good for me), indicates that this is a valuable book, and I really enjoyed reading it. Let's start with the praise.

Binet offers an unquestionably brilliant evocation of French postmodernism of the 1970s and early 1980s, particularly the "gang" of Foucault, Barthes, Derrida, Sollers, Kristeva and others;
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Caroline
It is going to be extraordinarily difficult to write much about this book without divulging the plot, and I do want you to read it without any foreknowledge (not that such a thing is possible, because context is of course one of the issues here). So I will try to put the big spoilers at the end, hidden, and you can decide whether to read the last review paragraphs before or after the book.

You know those slot machine windows where there are a dozen lines zigzagging up and down through the simples
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MJ Nicholls
Feb 18, 2018 marked it as half-read
Read up to p.168. In complete reviewerly concord with Lee Klein as to the novel’s initial momentum and momentous moments—the whip-smart précis of theories from the pastiched theorists, the hilarious send-ups of the self-regarding demimondes, the clever take on the political lunacies of the period, the sparky self-awareness of the narrator, and the frothy fun of the comic dialogue. But when the novel moves to Bologna, and the conceit of Barthes’s “7th language”, i.e. a mind-control tool for world ...more
Wen
Mar 25, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france
The book was 2018 MBI longlisted, and I read it with ManBookering group.
To me it was a slightly better-than-average detective thriller filled with sometimes excessive academic minutia.
Paris police chief Bayard and young professor Simon Herzog teamed up to investigate the seemingly accidental death of renowned literary critic Roland Barthes. Kind of a Sherlock Holmes tale infused with both intellectual (academic) and erotic stimulations.
Real historical events, like French election and Bologna mas
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W.D. Clarke
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, campus-mentis
3.5* rounded up.
A rollicking good time, especially in the first half. If a bit overly professorial on occasion (OK: on much more than one occasion), it's about a bunch of verbose professors and their wacky theories, so you know what you're getting into from the get-go—a campus novel involving what is arguably one of the biggest MacGuffins ever, my friends.

If you are as allergic to PoMo theory as I am, don't worry: no anaphalaxis will be provoked, just a mild rash, as the theory is all dealt wit
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Simon Robs
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What an entertaining book! Aside the generous liberties taken to story-tell with the cavalcade of personalities from that era 1980's there was a reasonably well explicated laying out of semiotics/linguistics/historical record of those who developed the fields of study. I just finished another book which also "Lost in the Cosmos" delved into the murky waters of the semiotics relationship to culture/history and so this was helpful - there's a new hook in my mouth and where this will lead - the mag ...more
Anna
It has been too long since I gave a novel five stars because it was an absolute joy from start to finish. This is most certainly the first such novel of 2018. ‘The 7th Function of Language’ is an extremely funny murder mystery farce set in the pompous and obscure world of European theorists. It pulls off a number of very neat tricks. One is enabling the reader to feel clever for recognising various characters, while mocking the theorists sufficiently that the risk of pretentiousness is undercut. ...more
Gerhard
Throwing in the towel at 79%. Starting to go cross-eyed and speed-reading sections. Yes, this is stuffed to the gills with allusions and repartee, and comes across as Literary Theory 101 for Dummies … but it is not a novel. Maybe it is supposed to be an anti-novel. No characterisation, just historic pastiche. And no plot either, just a seemingly endless riff on Barthes, etc. And determined to wallow in so muck-raking, back-stabbing, and general sordidness that the author’s vitriolic bile quickly ...more
vicky
I was thrilled when I first heard about this book, because I love novels that are set in an academic background (even better if there's murder involved) and I've been wanting to read Binet's Prix Goncourt winning first novel "HHhH" for the longest time. This one, however, didn't convince me. It started out promising, I loved the setting in different European cities, but at some point the sheer amount of real-life characters, lengthy, repetitive scenes, pseudo-intellectual language (yes, I'm awar ...more
Neil
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, 2018-mbi
Let’s start with the obvious potential problem: I know nothing about semiology and this book includes a lot about semiology and language theory. On the plus side, this is mixed with car chases, sex, mutilations, murders and explosions! For a book that is self-consciously a novel, large parts of it are incredibly cinematic.

The plot is, it has to be said, ridiculous. In an alternative history, the death of Roland Barthes is not an accident but the starting point of a story about a mythical seventh
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Daniela
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5*

What can you do with language?

This is the question Laurent Binet asks his readers and the question he attempts to answer in this extraordinarily intelligent and amusing novel.

Binet begins with the assumption that Roland Barthes’s death was no accident. Barthes, famous linguistic and semiologist, had apparently uncovered a seventh function of language, or, to put it simply, a secret, a technique that would permit those who mastered it to turn words into actions. That is, to be like God wh
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Chris Via
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
What literary person can resist a satire of the French 1980s intelligentsia? Roland Barthes is struck by a vehicle, hospitalized, and dies--but not before setting in motion an investigation that points to mysteries, secret societies, a Holy Grail of a purloined document, and national conspiracies. The cast features no less than Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, Jean-Paul Sartre, François Mitterand, Umberto Eco (whom I wish got more stage time), et al. ...more
Kai Weber
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a pity that books like Eco's "Il pendolo di Foucault" and Semprún's "La deuxième mort de Ramón Mercader" have been written and published long ago, because that makes "La septième fonction du langage" taste a little bit of an epigone. But with its tongue-in-cheek style, this book is a very entertaining addition to the genre of historical misrepresentation. So I can also state: If you loved Eco's and Semrún's aforementioned books, you're likely to appreciated Binet's work, too.
So, what does B
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Rebecca
Read the first 40 pages. HHhH was brilliant, but this one’s cleverness is passing me by. I could probably sustain my interest in a playful mystery about linguistics and ‘the death of the author’ for the length of a short story, but not for nearly 400 pages.
Tanninsandtales
Probably one of my favourite reads of the year. A recreation of Roland Barthes' most unfortunate demise filled with humour, linguistic theories, fictionalised versions of real life academics and politicians plus a cop trying to navigate the world of French inteligentsia. Highly recommended.

(Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy!)
Igor Ljubas
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
[Through my ratings, reviews and edits I'm providing intellectual property and labor to Amazon.com Inc., listed on Nasdaq, which fully owns Goodreads.com and in 2014 posted revenues for $90 billion and a $271 million loss. Intellectual property and labor require compensation. Amazon.com Inc. is also requested to provide assurance that its employees and contractors' work conditions meet the highest health and safety standards at all the company's sites]

Ovaj tekst je test za sedmu funkciju jezika.
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Lee Klein
Putting down on page 147 -- loved the opening part, the general conceit, lots of fun to see everyone's favorite theorists animated in a whodunit set in Paris. Loved the bit about Bond and Simon's detective-like interpretations of the text of life. So good. Also loved the Bayard's BS detector and general demeanor as a counterbalance for the intellectualization. But after about 75 pages I noticed my interest fading as things seemed muddled with characters and 1980isms. Loved the bits about Connors ...more
D
Jul 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hilarious comedy. Thesetting is historic: France (and other countries) before the first presidential election victory of Mitterand in 1981. You need to either be very familiar with the 'intellectual scene' in Paris at the time, or -- like me -- occasionally check Wikipedia to realize that most characters, except the two heroes, were real public figures at the time. The author expertly weaves the fiction so that it fits with the actual history of the time: the bomb at Bologna station, Mitterand w ...more
Roman Clodia
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After the emotive and hard-hitting HHhH, here Binet is taking a kind of book vacation as he concocts a playful, mischievous tale of murder, poisoned umbrellas, political skullduggery and a world-wide secret organisation that has been in existence since ancient Athens and which knows the closely guarded secret of the titular seventh function of language..

Taking its lead from the absurd real-life death of Barthes after being hit by a laundry van, Binet launches into an energetic satire that romps
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SueKich
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Barthes Simpson.

In 2012, the founder of The Philosophers’ Magazine, Julian Baggini, wrote an essay in which he said: “The Simpsons is much more than a funny animated cartoon, it’s a work of philosophy. It does philosophy better than most philosophers.” So convinced that this was indeed the case, Glasgow University introduced a course examining the wisdom of the Simpson family in philosophical terms. (A course that proved decidedly popular. D’oh.) Baggini also stated: “Comedy is the most truthful
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Nicole
Binet is a smart ass. This book shows what things would be like if theory-heads were right about the world and their place and relative importance in it.
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Son of an historian, Binet was born in Paris, graduated from University of Paris in literature, and taught literature in Parisian suburb and eventually at University. He was awarded the 2010 Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman for his first novel, HHhH.


Laurent Binet est né à Paris. Il a effectué son service militaire en Slovaquie et a partagé son temps entre Paris et Prague pendant plusieurs années. Ag
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