Posted by: Corri van de Stege | April 25, 2010


In between all the detective and spy stories that I’m devouring at the moment [this week: Le Carre’s The Secret Pilgrim and Henning Mankell’s Firewall] I found myself skipping through Barthes’ Mythologies last night.  Perhaps it was the urge to counterbalance some of the mind numbing ‘who dun it’ or ‘who’s gonna get killed next’ with some more profound observations.  Actually, you could not read Mythologies in one go, it is definitely something to have on the bedside table or shelf to pick up casually when you are in need of food for thought. 

Mythologies is a collection of short (some very short) observations, essays, critiques, whatever you may call them.   They are observations on modern life, culture, and behaviour that make you sit up and think ‘yes, of course – this is it, this is really quite absurd’.   Last night I read his observation on ‘toys’ in which he notes that ‘… all toys are essentially a microcosm of the adult world; they are all reduced copies of human objects, as if in the eyes of the public the child was, all told, nothing but a smaller man, a homunculus to whom must be supplied objects of his own size.’

Well, not necessarily thinking of  ‘a smaller man’, but rather my granddaughter I must admit that I think he has a point here.  Most stuff you find in toyshops are really small replica’s of adults’ lives: the doll’s house, the doll’s pram, the hospital set, etc. etc.  Not sure where I go with this, however, I think the point probably is that we leave very little to children’s imagination nowadays.  And then of course, there’s the point that wooden toys will last, whereas all others will just break and become disintegrated plastic.  Mmmm. 

Funny thing is that these essays in fact make you think about the world around you in a completely different way.  There are thoughts on ‘wine and milk’, ‘steak and chips’, and ‘striptease’ and Barthes deconstructs these ideas in such a way that you look at the world differently.  In fact, you see the absurdity of life in its full glory.  For that reason alone it’s worth while just dipping into and out of this little book.  Just put it on your bookshelf. 

Now, I was not going to write about this at all, but here you go.  That’ll do for today.



  1. Sounds just up my street – I like books of essays I can dip in and out of. Re the toys, our 1 year old grand-daughter plays with Fisher Prices stuff that her mother played with as a baby. Some plastic things just seem to work, others are rubbish.

  2. Tom – Definitely: I used to swear by Fisher Price and still buy it (now for granddaughter) – wooden toys tend to be quite heavy when you have to send them or take them abroad…. Nevertheless, Barthes has some quirky aproaches to all sorts of things. Enjoy!

  3. You got me when you said he “deconstructs” these things…I am totally curious. Also like the fact that I can pick it up and put it down or get cruise through it at one sitting. and his topics? hmmmm….oh yeah, I will check it out.

    Hey,a couple people I know are eating up mysteries right now – is spring the season of mysteries? Curious about that, too. Gotta see what’s on my shelf.


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