The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet (Translated by Sam Taylor) - review by Andrew Hussey

Andrew Hussey

Death of an Author

The 7th Function of Language


Harvill Secker 390pp £16.99

This book begins with a real event that took place on rue des Ecoles in Paris on 25 February 1980 at around half past three in the afternoon. After a good lunch, the distinguished philosopher and critic Roland Barthes was on his way back to his office when he walked into the path of a laundry van. He was severely injured and taken to the nearby hospital of Pitié-Salpêtrière, where he died a month later. He was sixty-four years old and still at the height of his powers and fame. The commonly accepted opinion was that he had been the victim of a random accident.

But what if the death of Barthes was not an accident at all? Barthes was a famous and important man whose theories on culture and literary criticism were taught in universities across the world. He was also well connected: just before his fatal accident, he had been lunching with François

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