Things a Man Asleep

Georges Perec, Author, Andrew Leak, Translator, David Bellos, Translator David R. Godine Publisher $19.95 (221p) ISBN 978-0-87923-857-5
Two intriguing and poignant novellas, Perec's first published works, show him forging the iconoclastic literary style that fully emerges in his magisterial Life: A User's Manual --the technique of crowding fictional space with an almost rococo wealth of detail and decor. Things (1965) coolly pinpoints the yearnings and malaise of young Jerome and Sylvie, market researchers who analyze their interviewees' needs just as Perec inventories their own. Media slogans and trendy magazines dictate the luxuries they would buy if they had money. To escape the consumerist mythology, they move to Sfax, a drab desert outpost in Tunisia. But although they locate a beautiful villa, their dream eludes them. The narrative slips into future tense: ``They will pine for Paris,'' go back and recall Sfax with nostalgia. In A Man Asleep (the basis of a 1973 award-winning film), an introspective graduate school dropout denies the pressures of time, first by examining each instant as he lies in bed, then by drifting through Paris streets in an imitation of sleep's shadowy oblivion. Despite his characters' trapped, ``decelerating'' lives, Perec's fertile imagination is fresh and surprising. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/03/1994
Release date: 10/01/1994
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