> Skip to content

An electrifying global conspiracy-thriller from the internationally bestselling author of HHhH.

Roland Barthes, one of the twentieth-century’s towering literary figures, is knocked down in a Paris street by a laundry van. It’s February 1980 and he has just come from lunch with Francois Mitterrand, who is locked in a battle for the Presidency. Barthes dies soon afterwards. History tells us it was an accident.

But what if it were an assassination? What if Barthes was carrying a document of unbelievable, global importance? That document was the key to the seventh function of language – an idea so powerful it gives whoever masters it the ability to convince anyone, in any situation, to do anything.

Police Captain Jacques Bayard and his reluctant accomplice Simon Herzog set off on a global chase that takes them from the corridors of power and academia to backstreet saunas and midnight rendezvous. What they discover is a global conspiracy involving the President, murderous Bulgarians and a secret international debating society. In the world of intellectuals and politicians, everyone is a suspect. And who can you trust when the idea of truth itself is at stake?

Reviews

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 playful conspiracy thriller.

Guardian, 2017 Books of the Year

Lively, earthy, experimental, ambitious, clever and endlessly entertaining… The recondite world of literary and linguistic theory collides delightfully with the pulsating one of desperate car chases, Bulgarian heavies brandishing poisoned umbrellas, and international espionage… Smart, witty, direct, cool

Hal Jensen, The Times Literary Supplement

Read More

Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback

    9781910701591

    May 15, 2017

    Harvill Secker

    400 pages

    RRP $32.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Hardback

    9781910701584

    May 18, 2017

    Harvill Secker

    400 pages

    RRP $39.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Dymocks
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • The Nile
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781473524637

    May 4, 2017

    Vintage Digital

    400 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Extract

Life is not a novel. Or at least you would like to believe so. Roland Barthes walks up Rue de Bièvre. The greatest literary critic of the twentieth century has every reason to feel anxious and upset. His mother, with whom he had a highly Proustian relationship, is dead. And his course on ‘The Preparation of the Novel’ at the Collège de France is such a conspicuous failure it can no longer be ignored: all year, he has talked to his students about Japanese haikus, photography, the signifier and the signified, Pascalian diversions, café waiters, dressing gowns, and lecture-hall seating – about everything but the novel. And this has been going on for three years. He knows, without a doubt, that the course is simply a delaying tactic designed to push back the moment when he must start a truly literary work, one worthy of the hypersensitive writer lying dormant within him and who, in everyone’s opinion, began to bud in his A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, which has become a bible for the under-twenty-fives. From Sainte-Beuve to Proust, it is time to step up and take the place that awaits him in the literary pantheon. Maman is dead: he has come full circle since Writing Degree Zero. The time has come.

Politics? Yeah, yeah, we’ll see about that. He can’t really claim to be very Maoist since his trip to China. Then again, no one expects him to be.

Chateaubriand, La Rochefoucauld, Brecht, Racine, Robbe-Grillet, Michelet, Maman. A boy’s love.

Continue Reading

Also by Laurent Binet

HHhH

Recommendations

The Unmourned
The Verdict
Crimes of the Father
Into the Water
Night School
The Girl Who Was Taken
Dunstan
Outlander
The French Perfumer
Private Delhi
No Place to Lay One's Head
A Dangerous Crossing
Catch-22: 50th Anniversary Edition
Their Finest
Fool Me Once
The Woman in Cabin 10
Life After Life
The Bone Collection
The Witchfinder's  Sister
The Award