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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?

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01
Life: A User's Manual is an unclassified masterpiece, a sprawling compendium as encyclopedic as Dante's Commedia and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and, in its break with tradition, as inspiring as Joyce's Ulysses. Perec's spellbinding puzzle begins in an apartment block in the XVIIth arrondissement of Paris where, chapter by chapter, room by room, like an onion being peeled, an extraordinary rich cast of characters is revealed in a series of tales that are bizarre, unlikely, moving, funny, or (sometimes) quite ordinary. From the confessions of a racing cyclist to the plans of an avenging murderer, from a young ethnographer obsessed with a Sumatran tribe to the death of a trapeze artist, from the fears of an ex-croupier to the dreams of a sex-change pop star to an eccentric English millionaire who has devised the ultimate pastime, Life is a manual of human irony, portraying the mixed marriages of fortunes, passions and despairs, betrayals and bereavements, of hundreds of lives in Paris and around the world.

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.
02
As his country is torn apart by social and political anarchy, Anton Vowl, a chronic insomniac, disappears. Ransacking his Paris flat, a group of his faithful companions trawl through his diary for any indication, for any faint hint, as to his location.
03
George Perec produced some of the most entertaining and spirited essays of his age, and Species of Spaces and Other Pieces is edited and translated from the French with an introduction by John Sturrock in Penguin Classics.

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.
04
Combining inventive fiction and autobiography in a quite unprecedented way, Georges Perec leads the reader inexorably towards the horror that lies at the origin of the post-World War Two world and at the crux of his own identity.
05
L.F: " Les choses " ? C'est un titre qui intrigue, qui alimente les malentendus. Plutôt qu'un livre sur les choses, au fond n'avez-vous pas écrit un livre sur le bonheur ? G. P: C'est qu'il y a, je pense, entre les choses du monde moderne et le bonheur, un rapport obligé. Une certaine richesse de notre civilisation rend un type de bonheur possible : on peut parler, en ce sens, comme d'un bonheur d'0rly, des moquettes profondes, d'une figure actuelle du bonheur qui fait, je crois, que pour être heureux, il faut être absolument moderne. Ceux qui se sont imaginé que je condamnais la société de consommation n'ont vraiment rien compris à mon livre. Mais ce bonheur demeure un possible ; car, dans notre société capitaliste, c'est : choses promises ne sont pas choses dues. --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
06
" Tu as vingt-cinq ans et vingt-neuf dents, trois chemises et huit chaussettes, quelques livres que tu ne lis plus, quelques disques que tu n'écoutes plus. n'as pas envie de te souvenir d'autre chose, ni de ta famille, ni de tes études, ni de tes amours, ni de tes amis, ni de tes vacances, ni de tes projets. Tu as voyagé et tu n'as rien rapporté de tes voyages. Tu es assis et tu ne veux qu'attendre, attendre seulement jusqu'à ce qu'il n'y ait plus rien à attendre : que vienne la nuit, que sonnent les heures, que les jours s'en aillent, que les souvenirs s'estompent. " C'est en ces termes que le narrateur s'adresse à lui-même, " un homme qui dort ", qui va se laisser envahir par la torpeur et faire l'expérience de l'indifférence absolue.
07
With the American publication of Life, a User's Manual in 1987, Georges Perec was immediately recognized in the U.S. as one of this century's most innovative writers. Now Godine is pleased to issue two of his most powerful novels in one volume: Things, in an authoritative new translation, and A Man Asleep, making its first English appearance. Both provoked strong reactions when they first appeared in the 1960s; both which speak with disquieting immediacy to the conscience of today's readers. In each tale Perec subtly probes our compulsive obsession with society's trappings the seductive mass of things that crams our lives, masquerading as stability and meaning.

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.
08
One overcast weekend in October 1974, Georges Perec set out in quest of the "infraordinary": the humdrum, the non-event, the everyday--"what happens," as he put it, "when nothing happens." His choice of locale was Place Saint-Sulpice, where, ensconced behind first one cafe window, then another, he spent three days recording everything to pass through his field of vision: the people walking by; the buses and driving-school cars caught in their routes; the pigeons moving suddenly en masse; a wedding (and then a funeral) at the church in the center of the square; the signs, symbols and slogans littering everything; and the darkness that finally absorbs it all. In An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, Perec compiled a melancholic, slightly eerie and oddly touching document in which existence boils down to rhythm, writing turns into time and the line between the empirical and the surreal grows surprisingly thin.
09
A long-suffering employee in a big corporation has summoned up the courage to ask for a raise. But as he runs through the looming encounter in his mind, his neuroses come to the surface: What is the best day to see the boss? What if he doesn’t offer you a seat when you go into his office?

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.
10
De temps à autre, il est bon qu'un poète, que n'effraie pas l'air raréfié des cimes, ose s'élever au-dessus du vulgaire pour, dans un souffle épique, exalter notre aujourd'hui. Car ne nous y trompons pas : ces courageux jeunes gens qui, au plus fort de la guerre, ont tout tenté (en vain, hélas !) pour éviter l'enfer algérien à un jeune militaire qui criait grâce, ce sont les vrais successeurs d'Ajax et d'Achille, d'Hercule et de Télémaque, des Argonautes, des Trois Mousquetaires et même du Capitaine Nemo, de Saint-Exupéry, de Teilhard de Chardin...
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.