'One of the funniest, most riotously inventive and enjoyable novels you’ll read this year' – Observer
Roland Barthes 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, a slippery politician 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? A document explaining 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 chase that takes them from the corridors of power and academia to backstreet saunas and midnight rendezvous. What they discover is a worldwide conspiracy involving the President, murderous Bulgarians and a secret international debating society.
In the world of intellectuals and politicians, everyone is a suspect. Who can you trust when the idea of truth itself is at stake?
"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 hugely entertaining novel, taking delight in its own twists and turns" (Nicholas Lezard Spectator)
"Lively, earthy, experimental, ambitious, clever and endlessly entertaining… Smart, witty, direct, cool" (Hal Jensen The Times Literary Supplement)
"The premise is a stroke of genius. Roland Barthes did not die following an accident in 1980; he was murdered… The strands of the plot are skilfully interwoven through a dual process of fictionalisation of the real and realisation of the fictional" (Andrew Gallix Financial Times)
"An almost filmic detective romp, taking in glamorous international locations, killer dogs, Bulgarian secret agents, several varieties of sex and wild car chases" (Andrew Hussey Literary Review)
"A smart spoof thriller, cheekily taking as its cat the most famous Parisian intellectuals in the scene in 1980… It’s all fun and games, ever so clever, and highly self-congratulatory for those of us who wasted years studying the abstruse and ultimately worthless theories of these French thinkers" (David Sexton i)
"Laurent Binet is possessed of something like Superman’s X-ray vision combined with a million lasers. When he gets something in his sights, that thing is dead. And what he kills in his new novel is literary theory, in all its fake unuseful stupidity…. Reading Binet gives you that rare pleasure of feeling that you’re losing your grip on reality… What Binet can do with a scene, a paragraph, is beyond belief… One suspects Binet will make, or perhaps already has made, a lot of enemies with his jaw-droppingly disrespectful, extremely witty and – yes – heartfelt book. But one thing’s for sure, he’ll know how to handle them" (Todd McEwan Herald)
"Incredibly timely ... very entertaining, like a dirty Midnight in Paris for the po-mo set" (Lauren Elkin Guardian)
"On one level it’s a nostalgic look at a period in which French thinkers spent less time brooding on national identity… And on another it’s an exercise in pure intellectual slapstick of the kind that French humourists do well… It’s possible that his novel shares a few shreds of DNA with Zoolander" (Christopher Tayler London Review of Books)
"A playful conspiracy thriller." (Guardian, 2017 Books of the Year)