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Un complot de saltimbanques by Albert…
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Un complot de saltimbanques (original 1975; edition 1999)

by Albert Cossery

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502233,859 (3.93)7
Member:emily_morine
Title:Un complot de saltimbanques
Authors:Albert Cossery
Info:Joëlle Losfeld (1999), Paperback, 193 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:toberead, xy, french, egyptian, frenchlanguage

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A Splendid Conspiracy by Albert Cossery (1975)

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Le style est surprenant , avec une langue richement descriptive; l'intrigue est interessante sans etre captivante; c'est une fenetre interessante sur l'Egypte et sa culture, mais la fin me parait inaboutie. ( )
  Gerardlionel | Apr 1, 2016 |
I was led to this book by some reviews I had read online, and came under the impression that its author held to a "philosophy of laziness". This indeed is true, but I soon realized my misinterpretation of the term. If the sympathetic characters in this novel were an example of this philosophy, it's not laziness in the traditional sense of sloth and lack of motivation. No, it is more a form of protest against the traditional means of blind ambition, and conventional goals such as promotions and diplomas. In fact, I would say Cossery's philosophy is antithetical to "laziness" as we commonly know the term, because he is all about an active appreciation of the world and all its buffoonery... by ridicule, pranks, and joyous comradery.

Inherent in this philosophy is a rebellious attitude, but there is nothing of the political in this rebellion. He does not want to change the world, but only realize the absurdity of it and laugh at it. Furthermore, there is no better place in the world to go to find such things with which to amuse yourself than right in your hometown, wherever you are, for the world and its inhabitants are the same everywhere.

Once I realized this was his worldview, I really began to admire this novel because I personally have zero ambition for the kind of material wealth and status that most people have (although I do disagree with certain elements of this worldview, but I will get to that at the end of my review). So I felt a kind of kinship with the characters.

True to its leisurely philosophy, this book has almost no conflict in the traditional sense, and yet I found myself amused and pulled along with every chapter. I didn't find the lack of conflict dull at all, as if the book was saying "look here, there are so many entertaining things in the commonplace and silly human lot that you don't need a hotly contrived plot with conflicts at every corner to amuse yourself". In fact, as if to show you this point, there was a contrived plot in this book--a bunch of notable rich men had disappeared mysteriously in the town--but the book almost laughs at it, treating it as a side-story with little to no importance.

Although this idea of laziness was central to this book, it didn't feel like a "Message" with a capital M but more like an embedded attitude that infuses the book with a sort of lackadaisical quality similar to a fun laid back romp around town. I found the book to be thoroughly pleasant, and the writing to be incisively funny, and the characters to be a pleasure, especially his way of slowly introducing the backstories of each character and filling us in on where they were coming from.

My only reservation would be that the book sometimes treats women, especially young women, as kind of periphery sexual pleasures. This was a turn off, but I didn't feel like I had to agree with this part of the book to enjoy the rest.

Another reservation in terms of ideas presented: the critique of material wealth is done by wealthy characters in good standing, who could afford not working. I found this kind of convenient and impractical and even a bit hypocritical. However, I do agree that you can work for a living and still not subscribe to the constant rat race of material wealth--it's an attitude that is not about working or not. It's about wanting to climb the myth of the social ladder or not. ( )
1 vote JimmyChanga | Jul 18, 2010 |
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