Georges Perec: Les Choses: Une histoire des années soixante (Things: A Story of the Sixties)
Perec’s first published novel – on the consumer society – is different from his later novels. It is a semi-autobiographical, realist novel about a young couple caught up in the consumer society. Jérôme et Sylvie drop out of college and go into the current fad – market research. Of course, they get caught up in the consumer society and they start wanting things. The problem is that they want to be free but also want to have all the consumer goods they see advertised – their dream is to have a Chesterfield sofa. Caught in this impasse, like Perec and his wife, they take up the opportunity of a teaching post in Sfax, in Tunisia and leave behind Paris and its consumer goods. Once in Tunisia, they have a larger flat and more goods but what good are all these things if you can’t boast about them to friends – who are in Paris? So, like Perec and his wife, they end up coming back to Paris. And back to the consumer society and the acquisition of things. Perec makes his point very well and tells an excellent story of material acquisition but it is not like his later works.
First published in French 1965 by René Juillard
First published in English 1999 by Vintage
Translated by Helen R. Lane