- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Vintage (4 January 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781784703196
- ISBN-13: 978-1784703196
- ASIN: 1784703192
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #61,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The 7th Function of Language Paperback – Import, 4 Jan 2018
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"Establishes Laurent Binet as the clear heir to the late Umberto Eco, writing novels that are both brilliant and playful, dense with ideas while never losing sight of their need to entertain... One of the funniest, most riotously inventive and enjoyable novels you’ll read this year" (Alex Preston Observer)
"A hugely entertaining novel, taking delight in its own twists and turns" (Nicholas Lezard Spectator)
"Lively, earthy, experimental, ambitious, clever and endlessly entertaining… Smart, witty, direct, cool" (Hal Jensen The Times Literary Supplement)
"The premise is a stroke of genius. Roland Barthes did not die following an accident in 1980; he was murdered… The strands of the plot are skilfully interwoven through a dual process of fictionalisation of the real and realisation of the fictional" (Andrew Gallix Financial Times)
"An almost filmic detective romp, taking in glamorous international locations, killer dogs, Bulgarian secret agents, several varieties of sex and wild car chases" (Andrew Hussey Literary Review)
"A smart spoof thriller, cheekily taking as its cat the most famous Parisian intellectuals in the scene in 1980… It’s all fun and games, ever so clever, and highly self-congratulatory for those of us who wasted years studying the abstruse and ultimately worthless theories of these French thinkers" (David Sexton i)
"Laurent Binet is possessed of something like Superman’s X-ray vision combined with a million lasers. When he gets something in his sights, that thing is dead. And what he kills in his new novel is literary theory, in all its fake unuseful stupidity…. Reading Binet gives you that rare pleasure of feeling that you’re losing your grip on reality… What Binet can do with a scene, a paragraph, is beyond belief… One suspects Binet will make, or perhaps already has made, a lot of enemies with his jaw-droppingly disrespectful, extremely witty and – yes – heartfelt book. But one thing’s for sure, he’ll know how to handle them" (Todd McEwan Herald)
"Incredibly timely ... very entertaining, like a dirty Midnight in Paris for the po-mo set" (Lauren Elkin Guardian)
"On one level it’s a nostalgic look at a period in which French thinkers spent less time brooding on national identity… And on another it’s an exercise in pure intellectual slapstick of the kind that French humourists do well… It’s possible that his novel shares a few shreds of DNA with Zoolander" (Christopher Tayler London Review of Books)
An electrifying literary conspiracy thriller from the internationally bestselling author of HHhH.See all Product description
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As imagined by Binet, Barthes was not simply hurrying back to his students at the Sorbonne when this mishap occurred. Instead, he had just had lunch with President Valery Giscard, who knew he was in possession of an obscure document, “The Seventh Function of Language”. In the jargon of semiotics, this seventh function is incantatory or perlocutionary. But in layman’s terms, this seventh function of language bestows incredible power, since a person who has mastered its underlying technique is capable of persuading anyone at any time to do anything. Think of the possibilities if you are, say, a politician, an academic and theorist, or a rhetorician.
Of course, a prominent intellectual such as Roland Barthes had many competitors and enemies. And the Paris police want to be sure Barthes’s mishap is merely an unfortunate accident, not an assassination. And so it assigns Superintendent Jacques Brayard to this case. Brayard is a no-nonsense right-leaning detective who finds intellectuals condescending and bitterly resents them. He also realizes from the outset of his investigation that he lacks the background to interview and understand the friends and enemies of Barthes, who include Michel Foucault, Julia Kristeva, Phillippe Sollers, and Umberto Eco. (All are important characters in this novel.) What to do? Brayard recruits (so to speak) Simon Herzog, an obscure young academic who teaches semiotics in the Paris suburbs, to be his investigative partner. This turns out to be a good move since the well-educated and highly perceptive Herzog is a virtuoso at explanation and reading signs.
Together, Brayard and Herzog then pursue the mystery of the seventh function of language as they travel from Paris to Bologna to Ithaca (a linguistics conference at Cornell) to Venice, back to Paris, and finally to Naples. Along the way, they encounter Bulgarian and Russian spies, a pair of Japanese tourists who the metafictioning Binet identifies as his deus ex machina, and a secret and elite debating society, where many members are missing fingers. In the mix, there is also a deadly terrorist attack, the death of Jacques Derrida from dog bites, and the outcome of the 1980 French Presidential election. As the book jacket says, this novel is “a madcap history of the French Intelligentsia.”
I strongly recommend this delightful book. Nonetheless, I want to make one pettifogging point: In 1980, the headquarters of the New York Times was on 44th Street, near Broadway. Its current building, across from the Port Authority, dates from 2007.