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Funny Old Fame

Patrick Parrinder, 10 January 1991

Things: A Story of the Sixties, 
by Georges Perec, translated by David Bellos and Andrew Leak.
Collins Harvill, 221 pp., £12.50, July 1990, 0 00 271038 2
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Parcours Peree 
edited by Mireille Ribière.
Presses Universitaires de Lyon, 162 pp., frs 125, July 1990, 2 7297 0365 9
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by Philippe Sollers, translated by Barbara Bray.
Columbia, 559 pp., $24.95, December 1990, 0 231 06546 9
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... upon a time, before the Channel Tunnel was built, there were two contemporary French novelists. Georges Perec died in 1982 at the age of 45, and nobody in England who was not a French specialist had ever heard of him. With Philippe Sollers it was different. Editor of the avant-garde theoretical journal Tel Quel, and associate of literary and ...

Tall Storeys

Patrick Parrinder, 10 December 1987

Life: A User’s Manual 
by Georges Perec, translated by David Bellos.
Collins Harvill, 581 pp., £15, October 1987, 0 00 271463 9
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The New York Trilogy: City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 314 pp., £10.95, November 1987, 0 571 14925 1
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... 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 ...

E-less in Gaza

John Sturrock, 10 November 1994

A Void 
by Georges Perec, translated by Gilbert Adair.
Harvill, 285 pp., £15.99, October 1994, 0 00 271119 2
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... It should make the business of writing not pleasanter but harder. Harder or, if you think like Georges Perec, easier. Perec has to have been the most talented and entertaining player of word-games in the long history of Homo ludens, and he gave as his reason for taking to them so whole-heartedly that had he not been ...


Daniel Soar: Harry Mathews, 21 July 2005

My Life in CIA: A Chronicle of 1973 
by Harry Mathews.
Dalkey Archive, 203 pp., £8.99, July 2005, 1 56478 392 8
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... and Tlooth (1966); he was trying hard to find a publisher for the third. He had been befriended by Georges Perec and become a member of the Oulipo, the Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, whose monthly meetings to discuss mathematical or combinatorial writerly inventions kept him going but whose fierce criticism could be discouraging. He went to ...


Mark Ford, 2 February 1989

W or the Memory of Childhood 
by Georges Perec, translated by David Bellos.
Collins Harvill, 176 pp., £10.95, October 1988, 0 00 271116 8
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Life: A User’s Manual 
by Georges Perec, translated by David Bellos.
Collins Harvill, 581 pp., £4.95, October 1988, 0 00 271999 1
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... These are the first of Georges Perec’s wonderful and extraordinary writings to be translated into English. Perec has been a household name in France since the runaway success of his first and most popular novel, Les Choses (1965), which still sells twenty thousand copies a year ...

Hound of Golden Imbeciles

John Sturrock: Homage to the Oulipo, 29 April 1999

Oulipo Compendium 
edited by Harry Matthews and Alastair Brotchie.
Atlas, 336 pp., £16.99, March 1999, 0 947757 96 1
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... to forget, if we can stay with palindromes for a moment, the over-the-top example provided by Georges Perec for the 1973 anthology, which runs to more than five thousand characters, all the way from ‘Trace l’inégal palindrome. Neige. Bagatelle, dira Hercule. Le brut repentir, cet écrit né Perec’, to, a ...


J. Robert Lennon: Am I Le Tellier?, 21 July 2022

The Anomaly 
by Hervé Le Tellier, translated by Adriana Hunter.
Michael Joseph, 327 pp., £14.99, January, 978 0 241 54048 0
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... to elicit genuine emotion, and the most indebted to Le Tellier’s Oulipian forebear, Georges Perec, whose Life: A User’s Manual is a masterpiece of smart and unashamedly emotional character sketches intertwined by clever conceptual trickery. (‘Why walk in Perec’s shadow?’ Victor scolds himself at ...

Think Tiny

Mark Ford: Nancification, 17 July 2008

The Nancy Book 
by Joe Brainard.
Siglio, 144 pp., $39.50, April 2008, 978 0 9799562 0 1
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... that one. Harry Mathews, a friend of Brainard’s, explained the concept to his fellow Oulipian Georges Perec, who composed his own Je me souviens (dedicated to Brainard), which was published in 1978, and the genre took off in France too. When Perec died five years later Mathews commemorated him with a text entitled ...

Red makes wrong

Mark Ford: Harry Mathews, 20 March 2003

The Human Country: New and Collected Stories 
by Harry Mathews.
Dalkey Archive, 186 pp., £10.99, October 2002, 1 56478 321 9
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The Case of the Persevering Maltese: Collected Essays 
by Harry Mathews.
Dalkey Archive, 290 pp., £10.99, April 2003, 1 56478 288 3
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... of expansion, however, but by their self-imposed laws of constraint. The best known of these are Georges Perec’s lipogrammatic La Disparition (1969), composed without once using the letter e, and his Les Revenentes (1972), which contains no vowels except e. Over the years OuLiPians have developed or recovered all manner of demanding ...

Op Art

Joshua Cohen: Joshua Sobol, 3 March 2011

Cut Throat Dog 
by Joshua Sobol, translated by Dalya Bilu.
Melville House, 270 pp., £10.99, November 2010, 978 1 935554 21 9
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... commercial conventions were perfected in the US – finds its most cerebral innovators abroad: Georges Simenon (Belgium), Leonardo Sciascia (Italy), Bernhard Schlink (Germany). What must be its mandarin masterpiece was written in French in 1969: Georges Perec’s La Disparition is a lipogram, from the Greek ...

By an Unknown Writer

Patrick Parrinder, 25 January 1996

Numbers in the Dark and Other Stories 
by Italo Calvino, translated by Tim Parks.
Cape, 276 pp., £15.99, November 1995, 0 224 03732 3
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... unfinished novels into short stories. He wrote a story for the OuLiPo, the Paris group to which Georges Perec and other avant-garde writers belonged, but was quite happy to have it published in Playboy instead. If we connect the idea of ‘piling stories upon stories’ with a nostalgia for innocent, childhood reading experiences it may be because the ...
Cross Channel 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 211 pp., £13.99, January 1996, 0 224 04301 3
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... Barnes a ‘Modernist’ or a ‘Post-Modernist’ writer? Some might want to call Beckett or Georges Perec ‘Modernist’, some might want to call them ‘Post-Modernist’, and the disagreement would not seem to be fatal. The concept ‘Modernist’ originated in connection with art, and if you do not demand too much from the term, it can be ...

John Sturrock

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 21 September 2017

... that. Only a very few occasions allowed John to lower his guard. The death in Auschwitz of Georges Perec’s mother elicits a hint of sentimentality, but time spent in the Gulag is no excuse for sloppy thinking and, as John puts it, Andrei Sakharov’s discussion of Derrida isn’t ‘guaranteed to be totally coherent by his courage in resisting ...


Robert Irwin: Pinball and Despair, 7 July 1994

... a képi bleu swiftly follows. But, my novel apart, they write on this matter better in France, Georges Perec being perhaps the most recent of the great literary pinball players. The protagonist of Perec’s A Man Asleep speaks for me: ‘You hug the machines for nights on end, feverishly, angrily. You ...

English Words and French Authors

John Sturrock, 8 February 1990

A New History of French Literature 
edited by Denis Hollier.
Harvard, 1280 pp., £39.95, October 1989, 0 674 61565 4
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... Carolyn Dean comes within three italic characters of making the volume’s one joke, when she has Georges Bataille dismissing Sade’s new-found admirers as ‘con artists’). Of the women writers for whom admission to the canon is demanded, one, George Sand, has surely never been dropped from it, but another, the late 18th-century novelist, Isabelle de ...

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