A VOID by Georges Perec

A VOID

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The late French linguistic virtuoso Perec (193682; Things and A Man Asleep, 1990, etc.), wrote this brilliant book that contains not one letter E (we kid you not) in 1969, and, until now, no one was up to this extreme translating challenge. Adair, the translator, should be immediately inducted into the translator's hall of fame, for Perec's verbal antics are always outrageous, but not to have the use of the most widely used English (and French) vowel is insane. The plot around which Perec and Adair contort is a shaggy-dog tale that starts with Anton Vowl, a Kafkaesque character suffering from insomnia and general ennui. When he mysteriously disappears from his Paris apartment, his disparate friends and acquaintances gather in a country villa to try to figure out why or how he vanished. They sift through objects found in Vowl's apartment, including his notebooks that contain E- less renditions of Hamlet's soliloquy (``Living or not living: that is what I ask''), Shelley's ``Ozymandias,'' and Poe's Arthur Gordon Pym (``Quoth that Black Bird, `Not Again' ''). They also compare the cryptic messages sent by Vowl before his disappearance, messages that brought the diverse group together in the first place. What they find, after much study and a few deaths, is that there is an ancient curse following the group. The tragedies that have befallen Vowl and the rest of those assembled, they realize, are the result of their being bound by blood, and no matter what their ancestors have done to shield them, they are all in for the same fate. The convoluted plot, while intriguing, is more an excuse for Perec (and Adair) to take us through a verbal circus with sideshows featuring ancient languages, varying ways of communication, and prankster existentialism, all of which are of head-shaking genius. A mind-blowing feat of writing and translation.

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 1995
ISBN: 0-00-271119-2
Page count: 304pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994




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