- Paperback: 190 pages
- Publisher: J'AI LU (ÉDITIONS) (March 20 2006)
- Language: French
- ISBN-10: 2290349674
- ISBN-13: 978-2290349670
- Product Dimensions: 18 x 1.5 x 11 cm
- Shipping Weight: 118 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
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COSMOPOLIS (French) Paperback – Apr 5 2006
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Une journée dans la vie d'un homme d'affaires, celle de Eric Michael Packer, un yuppie, jeune premier dans la réussite, parti d'une petite start up, parvenu en haut de l'échelle. Comme dans une boîte à musique renfermant une entière partition, Don Delillo a concentré en quelques heures l'existence d'un homme et, au-delà de sa marionnette, un monde cosmopolite, vibrant aux rythmes des frénésies new-yorkaises. Cosmopolis est d'abord une œuvre sur la réussite entrepreneuriale, sur l'univers de la finance brossé au scalpel. Où se mêlent les limousines blindées, les bureaux gavant les buildings, les tours de banques, les appareils de régulation d'air, les agents de sécurité et les gardes du corps, les meurtres, les directeurs financiers en short de jogging et débardeur, les "lueurs du cybercapital", des hommes et des femmes les yeux rivés sur des écrans de contrôle, des rencontres amoureuses furtives, des relations sexuelles non moins furtives, des échanges courts et secs, des adeptes de rave party croisant des smurfeurs.
Au reste, dans l'effervescence de New York, tout le monde croise tout le monde, Indiens et Pakistanais, latinos et Chinois, anarchistes et chauffeurs de taxi sikhs. Point de hasard au titre du livre choisi par Don Delillo, dans un amas de petites choses, de courses exaltées par les flambées des cours pour son personnage principal, jusqu'à la confrontation fatale avec un exclu, brimé, brisé, licencié, auparavant analyste de devises. C'est là un formidable tourbillon de fin de XXe siècle aux apparences économiques et sociales et en fin de compte humain, terriblement humain. --Céline Darner --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Auteur de treize romans et de deux pièces de théâtre, Don DeLillo s'est aujourd'hui imposé comme un véritable auteur culte à l'échelle internationale.Il a reçu les plus prestigieuses distinctions littéraires dont le National BookAward, le PEN/Faulkner Award et le Jérusalem Prize 1999. Toute son uvre est publiée chez Actes Sud.
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The characters aren't real. They're not supposed to be. Everything in this book is larger than life. And everything has an exaggerated bitter sting to it. The setting is New York City and the geography is familiar. It's some time in the very near future, when big-moneyed corporate executives rule the world even more than they do now. Eric, a 28-year old billionaire is one of them. The storyline is about him setting out to get a haircut and all the action takes place in a single day.
Eric is in a white limousine which is equipped with every convenience the author could think of. He has several bodyguards too, and a market analyst who interprets data from world markets constantly. People visit him in his limo, including a doctor who gives him a daily physical. Eric also manages to have romantic encounters with three different women as well as his wife. He makes choices that have him lose his fortune in the stock market. His car is attacked by anarchists. He has to pause and watch a funeral for a rap musician. And he even gets involved in working as an extra in a strange and upsetting film. And, early on in the book, the reader knows Eric is hurtling towards real disaster.
But the book is more than this storyline of course. It is an indictment of the capitalist system that once held out such hope. It shows the shallowness of the people, making every single character seem like a little marionette on strings and the whole tale one big puppet show.
This is a fine book. It is a worthwhile read. I just can't help it though. I hated it.
Recommended only for literary buffs who relish discomfort.
The plot seems simple enough. Eric Packer, a twenty eight year old Wall Street whiz, decides he wants to get a haircut. Moreover, he sets out on his excursion in a giant, cork lined white limousine with his bodyguards, advisors, doctors, and drivers in tow. Along the way, Packer undergoes a physical examination of a most personal nature, runs into his new wife at various places, witnesses an anarchist protest, gets attacked with a cream pie, becomes emotional about a rapper's funeral, and discovers someone is stalking him with a view to causing serious injury. There is little that ties these events and encounters together, as even the quest for a haircut often drops into the background when Packer bogs down in New York City traffic. Surrounded by computers and an endless flow of information, the billionaire spends most of his time waxing philosophic about the state of the world, the state of his mind, and the state of his attempt to make a killing off the Japanese yen. Ultimately, that is all this novel seems to do: throw out endless noodlings about the emptiness of life in the high tech, over stimulated information age.
DeLillo's writing style is the best thing going for "Cosmopolis." Infused with deep cynicism and a measurable detachment, it still crackles with crisp, short sentences that convey much with little ado. The problem comes when the language puts too much out there, when the reader starts to bog down under the endless litany of Packer's mental ramblings. Although this book is extremely short and can be finished in a day, it still seems too long at times. If there is any point to this tale, or at least where the point seems to assume clarity, it is when Packer and his "advisor on theory" discuss the meaning of the ticker boards with their endless scroll of information and the implications of self-immolating oneself to protest capitalism. Eric's accumulation of information threatens to overwhelm his existence because all he possesses is random bits of information. He cannot seem to tie it all together into any relevant meaning other than making money. There seems to be a germ of hope for him towards the end of the story, but most of the book is merely cerebral gymnastics.
The message of "Cosmopolis," about a man who has everything but wilts under his own inflated ego and goes off on a rampage, is definitely familiar. Bret Easton Ellis did something similar in "American Psycho," and he did it better. Eric Packer and Patrick Bateman are blood brothers, albeit relatives separated by about twenty years. When will these Wall Street archetypes' meltdowns have finality to them? Probably when the capitalist system finally collapses. In the meantime, we have people like Ellis and DeLillo dutifully reporting the carnage of undreamt of riches on the souls of humanity.
Many people out there are quite knowledgeable about DeLillo's body of work and the philosophy that powers them. I can draw no firm conclusions about this author from reading just one of his books. But I strongly suggest thinking twice before plunging into "Cosmopolis." It takes too much effort for too little return.
A man begins his day with everything, and ends it with nothing. His ideas, beliefs and body slowly lose their integrity. The story is not a puzzle with clearly edged chunks of interlocking pieces, but a constantly spinning web whose strands are spun by employees, lovers, a wife and a barber. As the story evolves, the man devolves. There's dry wit and Monty Pythonesque lunacy. There's the microcosm reflected in the macrocosm and vice versa. Even when inane, the ideas expressed are fascinating.
COSMOPOLIS sometimes enlightened me, and other times confused me. After my mind digests it a bit, I'll read it again.
Eric Packer, the protagonist, is the epitome of the class of get-rich-quick internet tycoons that came about in the 90s. What marks him as a member of this class is his faith in the power of information technology to predict the future and thus make the future bend to the will of the present. His lusts and manias are a diagnosis of a certain overreaching mindset from which we have not entirely freed ourselves.
However, what distinguishes Eric from his class is that his faith in information technology amounts to being a real religious devotion. Eric is a continuation of DeLillo's investigation into modern manifestations of the desire for religious trascendence. To paraphrase DeLillo, when the old God leaves the world, what happens to all the leftover faith? Eric clings to computer screens the way people once clung to holy texts. In his delusion, he experiences information as a communion with the whole of reality as such: reading a computer screen, he thinks, "Here was the heave of the biosphere. Our bodies and oceans were here, knowable and whole."
But he is also a sort of Oedipus. He does not know who he is. His turn towards technology is a way of escaping something in himself, a past that haunts him. In the end, the book is a story about a man losing his faith and rediscovering, for better and for worse, all the things from which his faith was an escape.
To be sure, this novel is not for everyone. For one thing, DeLillo never really decides whether he wants his fiction to be placed in a realistic or theoretical landscape -- is this our world or some imagined, symbolic world? Perhaps in 50 years we will thank him for refusing to make such a distinction, but for now, the book strains one's ability and willingness to become attuned to it. At the same time, he is moving away from the Joycean lushness of his earlier style towards a Beckettian starkness that many readers will find taxing.
Nevertheless, the book is special for refusing to be what a book is supposed to be. Like the later experimental work of John Coltrane, Cosmopolis is at once exhausting and invigorating.
Cosmopolis is not a facile entertainment. It requires work on the reader's part. Delillo is exploring territory that, by its nature, eludes description. The mind has well-evolved strategies for perceiving and reacting to the world; non-rational strategies largely inaccessible to waking consciousness; strategies that worked for millennia, now effectively shunted aside and concealed from view - even while they operate continuously in clandestine ways. How do you view or talk about this hidden stuff? You can't name it because language by nature is rational and this, by its nature, is not.
Delillo gives us a metaphor. Cosmopolis. It is incongruous. It doesn't match our world or its usual fictionalized portraits. The reader tries to fit the world s/he knows with the metaphor - it can't be done, it's incongruous. But in trying, the reader starts to sense an opening into something that is neither our world nor its metaphor Cosmopolis, something rising out of the tension between them.
The book is an exploration into the tension between the normal surface of things and an animating underworld we know is there but hardly know. Reading, rereading Cosmopolis, thinking about it is like opening a door in the mind that leads to rooms not often visited.
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