Georges Perec - book author
Georges Perec was a highly-regarded French novelist, filmmaker, and essayist. He was a member of the Oulipo group. Many of his novels and essays abound with experimental wordplay, lists, and attempts at classification, and they are usually tinged with melancholy.
Born in a working-class district of Paris, Perec was the only son of Icek Judko and Cyrla (Schulewicz) Peretz, Polish Jews who had emigrated to France in the 1920s. He was a distant relative of the Yiddish writer Isaac Leib Peretz.
Perec's first novel, Les Choses (Things: A Story of the Sixties) was awarded the Prix Renaudot in 1965.
In 1978, Perec won the prix Médicis for Life: A User's Manual (French title, La Vie mode d'emploi), possibly his best-known work. The 99 chapters of this 600 page piece move like a knight's tour of a chessboard around the room plan of a Paris apartment building, describing the rooms and stairwell and telling the stories of the inhabitants.
Cantatrix Sopranica L. is a spoof scientific paper detailing experiments on the "yelling reaction" provoked in sopranos by pelting them with rotten tomatoes. All the references in the paper are multi-lingual puns and jokes, e.g. "(Karybb et Scyla, 1973)".
Perec is also noted for his constrained writing: his 300-page novel La disparition (1969) is a lipogram, written without ever using the letter "e". It has been translated into English by Gilbert Adair under the title A Void (1994). The silent disappearance of the letter might be considered a metaphor for the Jewish experience during the Second World War. Since the name 'Georges Perec' is full of 'e's, the disappearance of the letter also ensures the author's own 'disappearance'.
His novella Les revenentes (1972) is a complementary univocalic piece in which the letter "e" is the only vowel used. This constraint affects even the title, which would conventionally be spelt Revenantes. An English translation by Ian Monk was published in 1996 as The Exeter Text: Jewels, Secrets, Sex in the collection Three.
It has been remarked by Jacques Roubaud that these two novels draw words from two disjoint sets of the French language, and that a third novel would be possible, made from the words not used so far (those containing both "e" and a vowel other than "e").
W ou le souvenir d'enfance, (W, or, the Memory of Childhood, 1975) is a semi-autobiographical work which is hard to classify. Two alternating narratives make up the volume: one, a fictional outline of a totalitarian island country called "W", patterned partly on life in a concentration camp; and the second, descriptions of childhood. Both merge towards the end when the common theme of the Holocaust is explained.
Perec was a heavy smoker throughout his life, and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1981. He died the following year in Ivry-sur-Seine at only forty-five-years old. His ashes are held at the columbarium of the Père Lachaise Cemetery.
David Bellos wrote an extensive biography of Perec: Georges Perec: A Life in Words, which won the Académie Goncourt's bourse for biography in 1994.
Georges Perec is the author of books: Life: A User's Manual, A Void, Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, W, or the Memory of Childhood, Les choses, Un homme qui dort, Things: A Story of the Sixties; A Man Asleep, An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise, Quel petit vélo à guidon chromé au fond de la cour?
But the novel in more than an extraordinary range of fictions; it is a closely observed account of life and experience. The apartment block's one hundred rooms are arranged in a magic square, and the book as a whole is peppered with a staggering range of literary puzzles and allusions, acrostics, problems of chess and logic, crosswords, and mathematical formulae. All are there for the reader to solve in the best tradition of the detective novel.
Georges Perec, author of Life: A User's Manual, was one of the most surprising and enjoyable of all modern French writers. The pieces in this volume show him to be at times playful, more serious at other, but writing always with the lightest of touches. He had the keenest of eyes for the 'infra-ordinary', the things we do every day - eating, sleeping, working - and the places we do them in without giving them a moment's thought. But behind the lightness and humour, there is also the sadness of a French Jewish boy who lost his parents in the Second World War and found comfort in the material world around him, and above all in writing.
This volume contains a selection of Georges Perec's non-fiction works, along with a charming short story, 'The Winter Journey'. It also includes notes and an introduction describing Perec's life and career.
Jerome and Sylvie, the young, upwardly mobile couple in Things, lust for the good life. "They wanted life's enjoyment, but all around them enjoyment was equated with ownership." Surrounded by Paris's tantalizing exclusive boutiques, they exist in a paralyzing vacuum of frustration, caught between the fantasy of "the film they would have liked to live" and the reality of life's daily mundanities.
In direct contrast with Jerome and Sylvie's cravings, the nameless student in A Man Asleep attempts to purify himself entirely of material desires and ambition. He longs "to want nothing. Just to wait, until there is nothing left to wait for. Just to wander, and to sleep." Yearning to exist on neutral ground as "a blessed parenthesis," he discovers that this wish is by its very nature a defeat.
Accessible, sobering, and deeply involving, each novel distills Perec's unerring grasp of the human condition as well as displaying his rare comic talent. His generosity of observation is both detached and compassionate.
The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise is a hilarious account of an employee losing his identity—and possibly his sanity—as he tries to put on the most acceptable face for the corporate world,with its rigid hierarchies and hostility to new ideas. If he follows a certain course of action, so this logic goes, he will succeed—but, in accepting these conditions, are his attempts to challenge his world of work doomed from the outset?
Neurotic and pessimistic, yet endearing, comic and never less than entertaining, Perec’s Woody Allen-esque underling presents an acute and penetrating vision of the world of office work, as pertinent today as it was when it was written in 1968.
Quant aux lecteurs que les vertus de l'épopée laissent insensibles, ils trouveront dans ce petit livre suffisamment de digressions et de parenthèses pour y glaner leur plaisir, et en particulier une recette de riz aux olives qui devrait satisfaire les plus difficiles.