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Monday, March 21, 2016

Things: A Story of the Sixties(1965) by George Perec

George Perec: A crazy coot!
Book Review
Things: A Story of the Sixties(1965)
 by George Perec

   Things: A Story of the Sixties is a well-regarded early post-modernist type book by French-Jewish author George Perec.  An initial English translation soon after the original French publication flopped, and the book was reintroduced to the English speaking world in 1990, with an entirely new publication.  Thus, for many decades, Things: A Story of the Sixties was widely famous almost everywhere but the English speaking world, and now it is a kind of minor classic- far better known in England, where some people actually read books in French, then here, where no one does.

  Things tells the story of a young couple, known only by their first names, who are something like early Yuppies- obsessed with materialism and status in post war Europe.  They live in Paris, they work as market researchers, they strive for an upper class life style.   Suddenly, they become dissatisfied and decamp to Morocco, where the woman gets a job as a French teacher and the man loafs around doing nothing.  Almost as suddenly, they abandon their North African adventure, and return to France where they both get jobs in the marketing field they left behind.

  Both Jerome and Slyvia are portrayed, if that is the right word, as existing without any kind of inner life, simultaneously repelled by society and yet fundamentally incapable of existing outside of it.   They are like mannequins, automatons or robots, and the book was received as a strident critique of the emerging consumer society which blossomed world wide in the mid 1960s.  In that way, the French edition published in 1965, was timely.  By the time the well distributed second English translation was released in 1990, 25 years had proved that Perec was sage in his description of a world obsessed with surface and status.

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