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A Void


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There is not a single E in this novel. That s right- no here, there, where, when; no yes, no love, no sex! New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Georges Perec (1936-82) won the Prix Renaudot in 1965 for his first novel Things- A Story of the Sixties, and went on to exercise his unrivalled mastery of language in almost every imaginable kind of writing, from the apparently trivial to the deeply personal. He composed acrostics, anagrams, autobiography, criticism, crosswords, descriptions of dreams, film scripts, heterograms, lipograms, memories, palindromes, plays, poetry, radio plays, recipes, riddles, stories short and long, travel notes, univocalics, and, of course, novels. Life- A User's Manual, which draws on many of Perec's other works, appeared in 1978 after nine years in the making and was acclaimed a masterpiece to put beside Joyce's Ulysses. It won the Prix Medicis and established Perec's international reputation.


OuLiPians (members of Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle) once defined themselves as rats who must build the labyrinth from which they propose to escape. Perec's labyrinth in La Disparition was a lipogram omitting the letter ``e.'' Lipograms are an old device, but what makes Perec's effort unique is the length and the fact that, despite its experimental nature, this works as a fun book, a sort of spoof on detective fiction. When the troubled Anton Vowl mysteriously disappears, his friends, led by Amaury Conson, try to find clues. Gathered at the great house of Azincourt, they uncover forbidden passions, an ancient curse, unsuspected relationships and an unending supply of dead bodies. Amaury's search for Anton is a premise: the reader's real conundrum is untangling the logogriph of A Void's multiple hints and references. Some are numerical/alphabetical (there is no chapter five out of 26); some require knowledge of French and other literature (one lipogram without ``a''s or ``e''s is by fellow OuLiPian Raymond Queneau); others are simply amusing (``An amorphous mass of books and authors bombards his brain... La Disparition? Or Adair's translation of it?'') In A Void, Adair has proved himself an adept translator, one fully as comfortable with Perec's sense of absurd fun as with his language. (Feb.)

"A true tour de force: a full-length novel containing not a single 'E'. An entertaining post-modern detective story...dazzling... the translator's dazzling recreation conveys the author's near magical cleverness while preserving an underlying seriousness that makes this book much more than a curiosity" * New Yorker *
"Adair's translation is an astounding Anglicisation of Francophonic mania, a daunting triumph of will pushing its way through imposing roadblocks to a magical country, an absurdist nirvana, of humour, pathos and loss" * Time *

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