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And Let Us Now Praise Georges Perec

Yesterday’s afternoon mail brought with it two Georges Perec books that Godine just brought out: a new edition of Life A User’s Manual and Thoughts of Sorts, a collection of essays published posthumously in France in 1985. And which, according to the jacket copy, “completes the Godine list of Perec’s great works translated into English.”

The other Perec books available from Godine are:

W of the Memory of Childhood
Things: A Story of the Sixties & A Man Asleep
‘53 Days’
Three by Perec
and _ A Void_

This really is the summer of Perec—in addition to the Godine books, the spring issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction is dedicated to Perec and includes pieces by Harry Mathews, David Bellos, Marcel Benabou, and Jacques Roubaud, along with a few pieces by Perec himself (“Statement of Intent,” “The Machine,” “The Doing of Fiction,” and “Commitment or the Crisis of Language”).

Perec’s a long-time favorite of mine. I came to him via Raymond Queneau and an obsession with the Oulipo. In face, Perec’s A Void, a lipogram novel that excludes the letter E, is probably the most famous example of an Oulipian constraint. Although the constraints governing Life (see this helpful Wikipedia page for some details, although the Oulipo Compendium has a much more detailed analysis involving the “knight’s move” and the clinamen) are much more complex and, in my opinion, resulted in a richer, more fulfilling book.

I’m definitely going to reread Life at some point this fall (I can see myself going on a Perec bender at some point . . . some point after the Best Translated Book stuff is over that is), and hopefully will write a much longer, more in depth post about the novel. In the meantime, we already have one excellent review of Life on the website: Bob Williams wrote this piece for us back some time ago. And equally as interesting as the review itself are these two Flickr pages that Sam Golden Rule Jones posted in the comments section. This one is Perec’s map of the apartment building in the book, and this one is Gabriel Josipovici’s enhanced version.



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