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Things: A Story of the Sixties / A Man Asleep

Tekijä: Georges Perec

Muut tekijät: Katso muut tekijät -osio.

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
375569,612 (3.69)12
Two thematically-related novels by Georges Perec in one volume. In Things: A Story of the Sixties, Jerome and Sylvie, a young, upwardly mobile couple lust for the good life, caught between the fantasy of "the film they would have liked to live" and the reality of life's daily mundanities. 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 something unexpected. Accessible, sobering, and deeply involving, each novel distills Perec's unerring grasp of the human condition and displays his rare comic talent.… (lisätietoja)
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näyttää 5/5
The first story seems to be an exercise in description of materialistic possessions (swan-necked brass taps). I found it an inspirational story for potential of penning a writer's own version of the descriptive narration of their own things, details, lists of items in rooms, corridors, gardens. Attitudes towards social activities, aims of where to take one's life, indecision and static holding people to their status. The author's ability to write a novel entirely uneventful about an ordinary young couple, without imagination, without pursuits, without a beginning, nor ending; yet paints a very realistic portrait of normal people; their minor arguments, small pleasures, half-hearted aims. It made an interesting read although had no plot worth mentioning. (The couple move out of Paris to Tunisia, then return to Paris).
A Man Asleep, the art of doing nothing, was depressing, although the student in the story is not depressed, just chosen to disassociate himself from life, observing himself and surroundings, but not interacting. It is a wonderful description of a university student's procrastination, beginning with an exploration of perception when one shuts one's eyes. The student (written as "you" decides to withdraw from the usual system of lectures, exams, socialising with friends, even going out at all. As time passes, "you" drift around, alone and desolate. The story leaves you with a feeling of despair and unease, although the descriptions (as in the previous story) are very accurately contemplative and comprehensive. Solitude, indifference, patience, silence. ( )
  AChild | Aug 22, 2023 |
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 individuality. Although this sounds critical the story is told in a matter-of-fact non-judgmental way.

A Man Asleep is a rather bleak tale of a young man losing interest in life, probably inspired by Kafka. ( )
  bodachliath | Sep 14, 2018 |
"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."

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:

1. Because the character does very little, and spends days on end in his tiny garret, it seems to owe its torpor and pessimism to Beckett, especially early Beckett like "Murphy." But Beckett's willful self-paralysis is presented as a condition of life, of living. Here, it's something the narrator has to train himself for, and it's an illness, from which he will finally awaken. (The introduction by David Bellos makes it sound as if it's not likely the character will survive his "hell": but at the end, the narrator has several crucial insights. "You were alone and that is all there is to it and you wanted to protect yourself... But your refusal is futile. Your neutrality is meaningless." A character in Beckett would never "wake up" in that fashion.)

2. Because the character wanders all around Paris -- the book is practically an inventory of every park, boulevard, and museum in the city -- it is reminiscent of Guy Debord. But I don't think that's right either, because Perec is at pains to say that his character is not a flaneur: he doesn't take any interest in what he sees, and in fact he trains himself not to care. The only two people in the book who attract the narrator's attention are a possibly psychotic man in a park, who does nothing but sit and stare, and the narrator's neighbor in the garret, whom he hears through the wall. This is the opposite of Debord's psychogeographies and his dérive.

3. A more plausible source, I think, is Duchamp. The narrator cultivates indifference; he trains himself not to judge, not to care. He has an interest in lack of affect. "Indifference has neither beginning nor end... indifference dissolves language and scrambles the sigs" (p. 185). There's a telling passage in which he's out in the country, looking at a tree. He says he could spend his whole life looking at the tree, "never exhausting it and never understanding it, because there is nothing for you to understand, just something to look at: when all is said and done, all you can say about the tree is that it is a tree; all the tree can say to you is that it is a tree." (p. 153) This isn't especially Duchampian—it is more late-Romantic natural philosophy—but what comes next shows that for Perec, the tree is the opposite of affect: "This is why, perhaps, you never go walking with a dog, because the dog looks at you, pleads with you, speaks to you... You cannot remain neutral in the company of a dog." (p. 154)

4. I also think Nietzsche's animal is behind some of this. Perec's narrator imagines a life without history, without past or future. Simple, self-evident life, "like a drop of water forming on a drinking tap on a landing, like six socks soaking in a pink plastic bowl, like a fly or a mollusc, like a cow or a snail, like a child or an old man, like a rat." (p. 177) The character is trying to strip himself of human motivations, which means culture, which means history. "To let yourself be carried along by the crowds, and the streets. To walk the length of the embankments... to waste your time. To have no projects, to feel no impatience. To be without desire, or resentment, or revolt." (p. 161)

As an elective affinity, I'd choose Kenneth Goldsmith. The narrator here reads "Le Monde" every day from five to seven o'clock, and sometimes re-reads entire issues. He reads "line by line, systematically. It is an excellent exercise." (p. 168) But "reading Le Monde is simply a way of wasting, or gaining, an hour or two, of measuring once again your indifference." (p. 169) Perec comes close to the supposedly affectless, rule-bound, rote, non-semantic sort of reading that Goldsmith's books imply. (But which Goldsmith himself completely ignores when he reads: but that's another matter.)

The book is also interesting for its second-person narration. Perec uses the second-person singular informal French "tu," so that the book sounds, in English, like an inner monologue. But it was not intended that way. This edition has an excellent very brief introduction by David Bellos, which quotes a line from a review by Roger Kleman: "The teller of the tale could well be the one to whom the tale is told… The second person of 'A Man Asleep' is te grammatical form of absolute loneliness, of utter deprivation." In addition a film version that Perec helped make has a woman's voice narrating the young man's life: all this by way of saying the voice isn't the character's inner monologue, but a speech directed to him. ( )
2 ääni JimElkins | Jul 19, 2012 |
3.5 stars ( )
  Lynsey2 | Jan 15, 2016 |
näyttää 5/5
ei arvosteluja | lisää arvostelu

» Lisää muita tekijöitä (11 mahdollista)

Tekijän nimiRooliTekijän tyyppiKoskeeko teosta?Tila
Georges Perecensisijainen tekijäkaikki painoksetlaskettu
Bellos, DavidKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Leak, AndrewKääntäjämuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu

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Harvill (94)
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Combined edition of both Things: A story of the Sixties *and* A Man Asleep.
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia (1)

Two thematically-related novels by Georges Perec in one volume. In Things: A Story of the Sixties, Jerome and Sylvie, a young, upwardly mobile couple lust for the good life, caught between the fantasy of "the film they would have liked to live" and the reality of life's daily mundanities. 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 something unexpected. Accessible, sobering, and deeply involving, each novel distills Perec's unerring grasp of the human condition and displays his rare comic talent.

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