A VOID- Georges Perec
Translated from the French
By Gilbert Adair
Harvill Press, London
Pages 285. ¢ 5.95
Here is a true tour de force: a full-length novel containing not a single E. That is right: no here, there, where, when; no yes, no love!
As his country is torn apart by social and political anarchy, A Void?s protagonist, Anton Vowl, a chronic insomniac, is unaccountably found missing. Ransacking his Paris flat, a group of his faithful companions trawl through his diary for any indication as to his location. All that it brings to light is a story full of plots and subplots, of trails in pursuit of trails.
This is an entertaining post-modern detective story, offering a rich variety of mayhem and of diction. The translator?s dazzling re-creation conveys the author?s near magical cleverness while preserving an underlying seriousness that makes this book much more than a curiosity.
Georges Perec (1936-82) was the author of Life A User?s Manual. His output is bewilderingly varied in form and style. It was his aim to write every kind of work that is possible to write without doing the same thing twice. He composed crossword puzzles and poetry, radio plays and a book on the game of Go, essays and palindromes and straight narrative. After writing A Void, he took all his unused E?s and devoted them to a short text, Les Revenentes in which the E is the only vowel employed!.
A Void?s translator, too is just as brilliant at such linguistic conjuring tricks, fully, unflinchingly assuming a monstrous constraint laid down by its author- to propound a gripping Gothic fiction with lots of twists and turns and without at any point invoking that most basic traditional syntax: an e!.