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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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... felt for the book would then rest on the wrong, insufficient premises. This is a situation that Gilbert Adair will be glad not to have had to face. His astonishing adaptation of Perec’s novel makes no secret of its lipogrammatic status: the front-cover blurb proceeds loyally enough without any es, only to blow the gaff in the final few words and tell ...

The View from the Passenger Seat

Lorna Sage: Gilbert Adair, 1 January 1998

The Key of the Tower 
by Gilbert Adair.
Secker, 190 pp., £12.99, October 1997, 0 436 20429 0
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... Gilbert Adair the critic writes with feeling and practised bitterness about the anxiety of influence – ‘that looming, lowering pressure exerted, wilfully or not, by those who have already “made it” on those who have not, a pressure cramping, crushing and on occasion castrating the creative energies of the rising generation ...

How criminals think

John Lanchester, 13 September 1990

Love and Death on Long Island 
by Gilbert Adair.
Heinemann, 138 pp., £10.95, July 1990, 9780434006229
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Going wrong 
by Ruth Rendell.
Hutchinson, 250 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 0 09 174300 1
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The Burden of Proof 
by Scott Turow.
Bloomsbury, 515 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 7475 0673 6
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Crucible of Fools 
by M.S. Power.
Hamish Hamilton, 165 pp., £12.99, August 1990, 0 241 13006 9
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... Philip Venturi, author of the feisty manifesto Learning from Las Vegas) is now itself parodied in Gilbert Adair’s funny and accomplished second novel. The narrator of Love and Death on Long Island is the Hampstead-inhabiting author of four novels more popular in France than in this country, as well as of ‘a history of angels’. As the novel opens ...

Back to the future

Julian Symons, 10 September 1992

The Children of Men 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 239 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 571 16741 1
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A Philosophical Investigation 
by Philip Kerr.
Chatto, 336 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 7011 4553 6
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by Georgina Hammick.
Chatto, 212 pp., £13.99, August 1992, 0 7011 4133 6
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The Death of the Author 
by Gilbert Adair.
Heinemann, 135 pp., £13.99, August 1992, 0 434 00623 8
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Jerusalem Commands 
by Michael Moorcock.
Cape, 577 pp., £15.99, July 1992, 0 224 03074 4
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... limits these are immensely enjoyable and successful stories. ‘Enjoyable’ is the word too for Gilbert Adair’s jokey fiction around and about the case of Léopold Sfax, who might be called a philosophical cousin not very removed of Paul de Man. Sfax, like de Man, arrived in America as a young man in flight from German-occupied France. He has a great ...

Vietnam’s Wars

V.G. Kiernan, 3 December 1981

Vietnam: The Revolutionary Path 
by Thomas Hodgkin.
Macmillan, 433 pp., £25, July 1981, 0 333 28110 1
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Death in the Ricefields: Thirty Years of War in Indochina 
by Peter Scholl-Latour, translated by Faye Carney.
Orbis, 383 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 85613 342 6
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Hollywood’s Vietnam 
by Gilbert Adair.
Proteus, 192 pp., £7.95, August 1981, 0 906071 86 0
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... Manila in 1966 to hear President Johnson announce his intensified programme of bombs and napalm. Gilbert Adair sets himself to find out what Hollywood made of all this servitude et grandeur militaire. It made very little of it apparently, preferring to go on serving its standard fare of romantic trivialities: the paucity of war films has the negative ...

Anticipatory Plagiarism

Paul Grimstad: Oulipo, 6 December 2012

Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature 
by Daniel Levin Becker.
Harvard, 338 pp., £19.95, May 2012, 978 0 674 06577 2
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... was written without the use of the letter e (it was translated into e-less English as A Void by Gilbert Adair in 1994).1 W, ou le souvenir d’enfance (1975) finds in the letter of its title both a cipher for a missing child thought to have survived a shipwreck, and a vision of a rigidly ordered polis on an island off Tierra del Fuego inhabited, as ...

A Life of Its Own

Jonathan Coe, 24 February 1994

The Kenneth Williams Diaries 
edited by Russell Davies.
HarperCollins, 827 pp., £20, June 1993, 0 00 255023 7
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... essay on the Carry On series written as an April Fool’s joke for Sight and Sound, Gilbert Adair described Williams’s persona in these films as one in which ‘the codified signs of the (flamboyant) homosexual – effeminate gestures, a mincing walk, a falsetto voice – stop short of any definitive implication of homosexuality as a ...

Who takes the train?

Michael Wood, 8 February 1990

by François Truffaut, edited by Gilles Jocob, Claude de Givray and Gilbert Adair.
Faber, 589 pp., £17.50, November 1989, 0 571 14121 8
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... Truffaut called Hitchcock an ‘artist of anxiety’. Truffaut was himself anxious enough, and a great admirer of Hitchcock, but his own best films are a mixture of lightness and weight, as Kundera might say, of gaiety and distress; plenty of pain, tragedy even, but nothing as taut, as possessive as anxiety. Truffaut was the artist of a particular kind of restlessness: the wonderful restlessness of his early films – Les 400 Coups (1959), Shoot the pianist (1960), Jules and Jim (1962 ...

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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... three-hundred-odd-page e-less novel (brilliantly and e-lessly translated a few years ago by Gilbert Adair as A Void), and his Life a User’s Manual, whose Oulipian underpinnings are spelt out in this Compendium, in the definition of the Graeco-Latin bi-square, a mathematical construct of some complexity that I’d rather someone other than me ...

All your walkmans fizz in tune

Adam Mars-Jones: Eimear McBride, 8 August 2013

A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing 
by Eimear McBride.
Galley Beggar, 203 pp., £11, June 2013, 978 0 9571853 2 6
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... set beside such feats as eliminating the letter ‘e’ (Perec’s La Disparition, Englished by Gilbert Adair as A Void) or telling Ophelia’s side of the story using only the words Shakespeare allots her (Paul Griffiths’s Let Me Tell You). McBride compensates by scattering full stops with a liberal, raisin-loaf-making hand, but her avoidance of ...


Geoff Dyer: Why Can’t I See You?, 3 April 2014

... anything you might think of as stroke-related. Back in London I often used to bump into the writer Gilbert Adair on Portobello Road, both before his stroke (always smoking, never healthy-looking) and after, when he was, as he put it, ‘sadly diminished’. I last saw him, shuffling around with a friend, struggling to remember who I was, a couple of ...

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