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The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise Hardcover – March 14, 2011
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“A hilarious and inventive office-drone odyssey.”—Bookforum
“We readers will have to deal with the fortunate burden of clearing shelf-space for another novel by Perec this spring, with the first English translation of The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise.”—Most Anticipated Books of 2011, The Millions
“As a witty indictment of corporate culture and an artifact from one of the 20th century’s most bizarre literary movements, The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise—as with all the works of Georges Perec—is a puzzle too absurd not to explore ... [it] will interest any reader who has ever worked in a large bureaucracy and considered himself underpaid.”—James K. McAuley, Harvard Crimson
“Perec’s novels are games, each different. They are played for real stakes and in some cases breathtakingly large ones. As games should be, and as literary games often are not, they are fun.”—Los Angeles Times
“We defy you to walk by this book and not pick it up. Perfectly packaged and immediately intriguing!”—A Largehearted WORD Book of the Week
“A brilliant ... conceptual, comedic novella from the writer who wrote the postmodern masterpiece Life: A User’s Manual.”—City Arts
“An acute and penetrating vision of the world of office work.”—Arthur
“Perec’s knack for absurdity and circumlocution ensures that each iteration is novel and urgent.”—Full Stop
“[A] fun read for someone who enjoys computer programming and corporate irony, and would make a perfect gift for the office mate with a good sense of humor.”—bestdamncreativewritingblog
“[A] terribly compelling work, one that does a great deal with very little. With his use of repetition, which also evokes a pre-set mechanism, Perec establishes a rhythm of sorts, while his subtle deviations from the pattern serve as moments of dark comedy.”—Slant Magazine
“Certainly something different, and quite enjoyable.”—Complete Review
About the Author
David Bellos is the author of a number of award-winning literary biographies and the winner of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize for translation in 2005. He lives in New Jersey and teaches French, Italian, and Comparative literature at Princeton University.
Top Customer Reviews
Fortunately, Verso has posted online an animated, interactive version of the flow chart. It's worth a test drive. (You can find a link to it by Googling the book's title with no spaces between the words: theartofaskingyourbossforaraise.)
These multiple pathways toward a hoped-for raise, pursued seriatim by a minor functionary in a large corporation, are the basis for the plot of Perec's inventive, comic novella, written in 1968. The story is told in the second person singular voice ("you") and, yes, "you" are an employee at "one of the biggest firms in one of the key sectors of the nation's most national industries." It is a corporation "which pays you a pittance while grinding away the best years of your life." All you seek is a meeting with your enigmatic line supervisor who, you fear, has a "disinclination to listen to your squalid concerns over pay". For 78 pages and 15,000 words, author Perec, and his fine translator David Bellos (who also provides a helpful Introduction), follow you from the start of your campaign all the way through to "your two hundred and fifty-fifth bid" for a raise.
Be forewarned, however, that Perec poses challenges to the general reader's ready embrace of his game plan. The book qualifies as a piece of experimental writing, and, make no mistake, it is demanding of the reader.Read more ›
David Belloc, Perec's biographer and translator for several of his works into English, including this novel, provides a helpful introduction to what is undoubtedly the most minor work in Perec's oeuvre. Around 1968 a french computer company wanted to enlist artists to use their computers, transforming the limitations of a binary computer code into art. In this case the computer task was to determine the steps potentially required to request a raise. Reproduced on the book's endpapers is the flow-chart with the decision tree leading to the request for a raise. Somehow this odd 'art' project came to the attention of a young Perec, who accepted the challenge of turning a flowchart into literature.
The largest limitation Perec set for himself on this assignment isn't the flowchart, it is the lack of punctuation and capital letters. The result is one of those one sentence novels, though in this case the novel is more a short story or novella in length.
I found this a very enjoyable romp of a read. Very funny, and very well translated. There are wonderfully evocative made-up words like circumperambulate, chinwag, bananabrain and ingurgitating. In describing his employer he uses ever shifting phrases, such as "the organization which toys with you."
On the flowchart the decisions are each yes/no. In the narrative these are "it's one or t'other." And what is described is the fluctuating confidence of the narrator within the endlessly large corporate structure.Read more ›