the lack of common measure between the desires of individuals and the means to satisfy them

“The character in A Man Asleep, by way of contrast, appears to have ‘read’ too much. To be precise, he reaches the end of his tether somewhere on page 112 on Raymond Aron’s Eighteen Lectures on the Industrial Society. Whilst the contents of page 112 of that book might well induce sleepiness when read in a stuffy garret on a hot day in May, that page is otherwise quite unexceptional. But perhaps we are not reading the same book. The Eighteen Lectures was published in 1963. It consists of actual lectures for first-year sociology students at the Sorbonne, first delivered in 1955–56. The first ‘edition’ was a cyclostyled volume (‘polycop’), distributed by the Centre de Documentation Universitaire, on page 112 of which the eye is caught by the isolated middle paragraph that concludes with the statement ‘It is poverty that humanity, as a whole, still suffers from today. Poverty, defined simply by the lack of common measure between the desires of individuals and the means to satisfy them.’ That is where Things begins.”

(Andrew Leak, “Phago-citations: Barthes, Perec, and the Transformation of Literature,” p. 133 in in George Perec issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction, spring 2009.)

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