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Benoit Duteurtre

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Book Description

July 8 2008 The Contemporary Art of the Novella

"The enfant terrible of modernity."-Le Figaro

Plunged into his new telephone's customer service-with its circular menu options and bright-voiced automatons-the narrator slowly unravels.

Benoît Duteurtre, winner of the Prix Medici, is the author of twelve novels translated into thirteen languages, including, most recently, The Little Girl and the Cigarette.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 100 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (July 8 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933633522
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933633527
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 12.7 x 1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 91 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,274,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The unnamed narrator in Duteurtre's unrewardingly whiny novella has something to get off his chest—customer service in the computer age is, it seems, a shambles. Telephones are answered by machines, high school kids are technology gurus, airlines are inflexible, and don't even get him started on the trouble of remembering PINs and passwords. The ensuing 74-page rant takes this frustrated 40-something narrator through all of these experiences and more, as he riffs on all that is wrong with the world today while trying to finish a magazine assignment and change his cell phone plan. The thin plot involves the narrator trying to discover whether the cell phone company's director of customer service actually exists. The catalogue of frustrations will be familiar to everyone, but the many pages of grousing are not cathartic, funny or enlightening. It's like Andy Rooney wrote a French novella. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"…the recent financial collapse helps make this novella more relevant than ever. [It] is an entertaining book and yet another example of the great work Melville House is doing in their Contemporary Art of the Novella series."
Three Percent

Praise for Benoît Duteurtre's The Little Girl and The Cigarette

"What I admire most about The Little Girl and the Cigarette: the clarity with which this novel unmasks the fundamental stupidity of our modern world; the black humor that transforms horror into a fascinating danse macabre."
—Milan Kundera

"(Duteurtre) is a cultural bomb thrower."
International Herald Tribune

"The novel goes down swinging—it gets its excited jabs in at everything from the nanny state to the way that children rule the adult world like tiny tyrants."
—Paul Constant, The Stranger

"A fascinating...fable of the terrifying power of public opinion."

"Duteurtre suggests that our obsession with children is pure narcissism—we outlaw our freedoms not because we love children but because we want to be them. And when we rebel, we do it because we long for the reassurance that having boundaries gives. It is maddening to watch this bureaucrat refuse to acknowledge his own childish behavior—like puffing secretly upstairs in a relative's nonsmoking home—as he rails against everyone else. On one hand, you empathize with his fight for personal liberties. On the other, you wish he'd just grow up and behave. Ultimately, he comes off as whiny, self-absorbed and unsympathetic. But this is precisely the point: We can see him no other way."
—Karrie Higgins, The Los Angeles Times

"As an unfiltered hit of misanthropy, the book goes down strong and bitter, leaving behind a craving for more."
—David Ng, The Village Voice

"How did a small French novel beat the odds to become a quiet cult hit in Chicago?"
Time Out Chicago

"Both funny and unsettling."
Chicago Reader

"A joy to read, as much as it is alarming."
Le Monde

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sept. 11 2008
By Lauren Magnussen - Published on Amazon.com
Duteurtre's seemingly simple treatise on the negative effects of technology in today's world slowly reveals its layers in small increments. The unnamed protagonist lets loose his frustrations on the encroaching field of electronics with skillful comparisons of old-world ideas juxtaposed with modern innovations. His angers and concerns absolutely echo the sentiments that many people feel today in an age of fast-paced living. The second half of the novella slides eerily into surrealism, with the character of Leslie Delmare seemingly representing the narrator's conscience, with a personality that both intrigues and clashes with his own. A present-day 1984, this glimpse into a world just like ours, yet slightly off-kilter, shows us our future if we don't slow down. Not quite dystopian, yet not quite real life, Duteurtre's metaphors serve as a testament that will allow later generations to see how society dove into the technology craze with gusto, and not enough caution.

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