Tall Storeys

Patrick Parrinder

  • Life: A User’s Manual by Georges Perec, translated by David Bellos
    Collins Harvill, 581 pp, £15.00, October 1987, ISBN 0 00 271463 9
  • The New York Trilogy: City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room by Paul Auster
    Faber, 314 pp, £10.95, November 1987, ISBN 0 571 14925 1

Like Hoyle and Stephen Potter, Georges Perec was a devotee of indoor games. La Vie Mode d’Emploi (1978), a title combining lifemanship, gamesmanship and one-upmanship, was the monumental creation of an author whose other productions included a treatise on Go (the Japanese board-game) and a weekly crossword for the magazine Le Point. Perec, who died in 1982 at the age of 46, is credited with the invention of the longest known palindrome (over five thousand letters). He saw reading as a pastime and literature as a strenuously recreational art. The writer, he thought, was at his best when, like an obsessed games-player, he was struggling to comply with some rigid system of formal constraints. Perec was often dismissed as a mildly amusing exponent of la folie littéraire, but he was far more than this.

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