Laurent Binet’s comic secret history of the French intelligentsia is both a wild send-up and an exuberant celebration of French intellectual tradition. Translated by Sam Taylor.
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 politician François Mitterrand. 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 that whoever masters it is able to convince anyone, in any situation, to do anything.