French experimental writer and Oulipo member Georges Perec was commissioned in the late 1960s to "use a computer's basic mode of operation as a writing device." Writing within a self-imposed set of constraints aimed at mimicking a computer's internal decision-making process, Perec crafted a short work that "simulate[d] the speed and tireless repetitiveness of a computer program by abandoning all forms of punctuation as well as the distinction between upper- and lower-case letters." The result, The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise, was then published in an academic review. In the early 1970s, the piece was adapted for both French and German stages and later reworked for a chapter in his 1978 novel, Life: A User's Manual. The original work, however, now translated into English by David Bellos, has remained all but forgotten for nearly four decades.
The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise is unique, curious, and well-crafted. Perec obviously admired the challenge of his assignment, as he turned out a piece that, while robotic in style, is still infused with character and humor. The absurdity one often endures in asking for a raise is something Perec must have been familiar with, as he accurately captures the anxiety, dread, and uncertainty that accompanies such a brave request. Lacking all punctuation (and thus sentence, paragraph, and chapter breaks), the story exudes a simple charm, perhaps derived from the fact that the form seems remarkably well-suited to the content. The repetitive prose that marks the work never becomes tiresome, as this too resembles so much of the utter redundancy of many modern workplaces. An attempt at this type of experimental fiction may have failed in lesser hands, but Perec is able to ensure its success, turning something artificial and detached into something animate and interesting. The book remains strangely alluring even after finishing it, and it may well be due to its second-person narrative (for surely everyone dreams of soliciting their boss for greater pay).
Verso's English edition of The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise is a small yet beautiful one. The endpapers feature a flow chart designed by Jacques Perriaud, the originator of the idea to compose a book utilizing the rules of computing. Perec follows this chart in writing the text, as it provides the basic, repetitive structure found within. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A long-suffering employee in a big corporation has summoned up the courage to ask for a raise. But as he runs through the coming encounter in his mind, his neuroses come to the surface: What's the best day to see the boss? What if he doesn't offer you a seat when you go into his office? Would it be a smart move to ask about his daughter's illness?
Never previously published, Georges Perec's The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise is a hilarious account of an employee losing his identity--and possibly his sanity--as he tries to put on the most acceptable face for the corporate world, with its rigid hierarchies and hostility to ideas and innovation. If he follows a certain course of action, so this logic goes, he will succeed--but, in accepting these conditions, are his attempts to challenge his world of work doomed from the outset?
Neurotic and pessimistic, yet endearing, comic and never less than entertaining, Perec's Woody Allen-esque underling presents an acute and penetrating vision of the world of office work, as pertinent today as it was when it was written in 1968.
An acute and penetrating vision of the world of office work.A hilarious and inventive office-drone odyssey.A brilliant … conceptual, comedic novella from the writer who wrote the postmodern masterpiece Life: A User’s Manual.We readers will have to deal with the fortunate burden of clearing shelf-space for another novel by Perec this spring, with the first English translation of The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise. --& - quot;The Most Anticipated Books of 2011 - & - quot;
As a witty indictment of corporate culture and an artifact from one of the 20th century’s most bizarre literary movements, The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise—as with all the works of Georges Perec—is a puzzle too absurd not to explore ... [it] will interest any reader who has ever worked in a large bureaucracy and considered himself underpaid.We defy you to walk by this book and not pick it up. Perfectly packaged and immediately intriguing! --& - quot;A Largehearted WORD Book of the Week - & - quot;
Surreal and witty look at the neuroses of the workplace, by the celebrated novelist.
Darkly funny, never before published account of the officeworker’s mindset by celebrated novelist.
Perec's novels are games, each different. They are played for real stakes and in some cases breathtakingly large ones. As games should be, and as literary games often are not, they are fun.
Never-before-published fiction by the master novelist, this darkly funny, subversive story is also a profound examination of the psychology of the worker and the workplace.
About the Author
Georges Perec was one of the most important experimental writers of the twentieth century. His many works include the novels Life: A User’s Manual; W, Or, The Memory of Childhood; and The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise.David Bellos is the author of a number of award-winning literary biographies and the winner of the inaugural Man Booker International Prize for translation in 2005. He lives in New Jersey and teaches French, Italian, and Comparative literature at Princeton University.