Things: A Story of the Sixties

Title: Things: A Story of the Sixties
Author: Georges Perec
Publish Date: 1965
Genre: Literary fiction
Page Length: Approximately 480 pages


Things: A Story of the Sixties by Georges Perec is a groundbreaking novel published in 1965. Within its pages, Perec meticulously depicts the lives of a young French couple, Jérôme and Sylvie, living in Paris during the 1960s. Through their story, the book examines the societal and cultural changes that occurred during the tumultuous era.

The novel is divided into five sections, each exploring different aspects of Jérôme and Sylvie’s lives. Through the meticulous descriptions and extensive attention to detail, Perec crafts a rich and compelling narrative that resonates with readers.

Section 1 introduces the readers to Jérôme and Sylvie, a young and ambitious couple. Both in their mid-20s, they share a passion for material possessions and strive to attain a luxurious lifestyle. The couple dwells in a small apartment, surrounded by their beloved objects, which serve as symbols of their aspirations.

In Section 2, the focus shifts to Jérôme’s career as a promising market researcher. While desperately yearning for professional success, Jérôme becomes consumed by materialism and loses sight of his emotional connection with Sylvie. Perec uses this section to delve into the themes of alienation, consumerism, and the search for identity within a materialistic society.

Section 3 introduces readers to a new character, a young woman named Jacqueline who becomes intertwined in Jérôme and Sylvie’s lives. Jacqueline embodies the counterculture spirit of the 1960s, rejecting the materialistic lifestyle pursued by Jérôme and Sylvie. Perec cleverly juxtaposes her carefree and unconventional existence with the couple’s relentless pursuit of wealth. This section highlights the generation gap and the clash between traditional values and the changing cultural landscape.

In Section 4, Jérôme and Sylvie’s relationship faces severe strain as their aspirations lead to financial struggles and personal tensions. Jérôme becomes increasingly dissatisfied with his career and decides to venture into entrepreneurship, hoping for a drastic change in their circumstances. However, his ambition ultimately proves detrimental to their relationship.

The fifth and final section brings Jérôme and Sylvie’s story to a bittersweet conclusion. The couple, now estranged and disillusioned, looks back on their relentless pursuit of material wealth. Perec exposes the emptiness behind their desires, providing a poignant critique of consumerism and the alienation it fosters. Jérôme and Sylvie are left grappling with the consequences of their choices, questioning the true meaning of happiness and fulfillment.

Thematically, Perec’s Things explores the tension between materialism and self-fulfillment, the impact of societal changes on personal relationships, and the elusive nature of happiness. Perec artfully captures the zeitgeist of the 1960s through his characters, drawing attention to the era’s shifting values and its effects on individuals.

Throughout the novel, Perec’s writing style stands out for its attention to detail. He skillfully describes objects, environments, and emotions, creating a vivid and immersive reading experience. Through this meticulousness, he examines the role of material possessions in shaping our identities and reflects on the nature of modern life.

Things: A Story of the Sixties is a significant novel in its exploration of consumer culture and the societal transformations of the 1960s. Perec’s portrayal of Jérôme and Sylvie’s lives offers readers a profound understanding of the era’s tensions and challenges. With its analytical lens and thought-provoking themes, Things provides a valuable resource for students studying the cultural and societal shifts of the 1960s, while simultaneously offering an engaging and immersive narrative experience.