A Void

by Georges Perec, Gilbert Adair | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 1860460984 Global Overview for this book
Registered by GeeMont of Auburn, Washington USA on 6/6/2005
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11 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by GeeMont from Auburn, Washington USA on Monday, June 06, 2005
"There is not a single E in this novel. That's right: no here, there, where, when; no yes, no love, no SEX!"
--New York Times Book Review


From Publishers Weekly:

OuLiPians (members of Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle) once defined themselves as rats who must build the labyrinth from which they propose to escape. Perec's labyrinth in La Disparition was a lipogram omitting the letter "e." Lipograms are an old device, but what makes Perec's effort unique is the length and the fact that, despite its experimental nature, this works as a fun book, a sort of spoof on detective fiction. When the troubled Anton Vowl mysteriously disappears, his friends, led by Amaury Conson, try to find clues. Gathered at the great house of Azincourt, they uncover forbidden passions, an ancient curse, unsuspected relationships and an unending supply of dead bodies. Amaury's search for Anton is a premise: the reader's real conundrum is untangling the logogriph of A Void's multiple hints and references. Some are numerical/alphabetical (there is no chapter five out of 26); some require knowledge of French and other literature (one lipogram without "a"s or "e"s is by fellow OuLiPian Raymond Queneau); others are simply amusing ("An amorphous mass of books and authors bombards his brain... La Disparition? Or Adair's translation of it?") In A Void, Adair has proved himself an adept translator, one fully as comfortable with Perec's sense of absurd fun as with his language.

Journal Entry 2 by GeeMont from Auburn, Washington USA on Thursday, July 28, 2005

Basic Order: USA to Canada to Australia to Europe and back to USA

mepwave: Pennington, New Jersey, USA (Will Ship OS)
awakeagain: Hackettstown, New Jersey, USA (Will Ship USA)
affinity4books: Bryan, Texas, USA (Will Ship USA or Canada if needed)
melydia: Springfield, Virginia, USA
Luintaurien: York, Nebraska, USA (Will Ship OS)--Here
titihood: Montreal, Quebec, Canada (Will Ship Canada, US if needed)
LastMango: Oshawa, Ontario, Canada (Will Ship OS)
RockDg9: Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia (Will Ship OS)
CatharinaL: Tampere, Pirkanmaa, Finland (Will Ship Europe)
eatsletters: Berlin (Wedding), Berlin, Germany (Will Ship OS)
ldpaulson: Ventura, California, USA (Will Ship USA)
GeeMont: Auburn, Washington, USA.



Journal Entry 3 by GeeMont from Auburn, Washington USA on Monday, August 01, 2005
On it's way to mepwave via media mail.

Journal Entry 4 by mepwave from Haifa, Haifa & Krayot Israel on Monday, August 08, 2005
The book just arrived! I'm so excited to read it. What a crazy challenge for the author! :)

Journal Entry 5 by awakeagain from Port Murray, New Jersey USA on Saturday, September 10, 2005
Rec'd this bookring today

Journal Entry 6 by awakeagain from Port Murray, New Jersey USA on Saturday, September 17, 2005
I was intrigued by the idea of an entire book written without using the letter 'e', but I found myself less interested when I realized this is a translation of a book written in French without using the letter 'e'. I suppose it's kind of silly since it took a lot of work for the translator to translate without using that letter either but somehow it spoiled the concept.

I also found that a book written without the ability to express anything in the past tense had a forward moving, yet clumsy style that I didn't care for. I got a few chapters in and gave up.

Sending to Affinity4books in the next few days.

Journal Entry 7 by affinity4books from Bryan, Texas USA on Sunday, October 02, 2005
This was waiting for me when I got home this weekend. I will start it early this week.

Journal Entry 8 by affinity4books from Bryan, Texas USA on Friday, October 21, 2005
Although I love the concept of this book, I only got about 75 pages in before giving up. I think part of the problem is that I have been bombarded with things to read for graduate school, and so I wanted to not have to think so much for my fun reading- and this book makes you think! The section I read was clever and mysterious, but had lots of words and references that I didn't have the energy to make sense of. I will probably give this a try again the next time I run across it. Thanks for letting me try it. :)

Journal Entry 9 by affinity4books at Bookray in By Mail, BookCrosser -- Controlled Releases on Friday, October 21, 2005

Released 14 yrs ago (10/21/2005 UTC) at Bookray in By Mail, BookCrosser -- Controlled Releases



Mailed off to Virginia

Journal Entry 10 by wingmelydiawing from Rockville, Maryland USA on Friday, October 28, 2005
This arrived in the mail today. I'm in the middle of a (very short) book right now but I will start it ASAP. Thanks!

Journal Entry 11 by wingmelydiawing from Rockville, Maryland USA on Wednesday, November 02, 2005
This was originally a novel written in French without use of the letter e, which was then translated into English under the same constraints. I sort of suspect that this little literary game was the main reason it was published at all. This was the kind of book I would have liked to read for a class, where someone would stop and explain what was going on every few chapters. It was far too tedious and heavy on the smug cleverness for my patience as a casual reader. I got about sixty pages in, then realized I was skipping and skimming more than I was actually reading, so I am passing it along. I hope the next person enjoys it more.

Journal Entry 12 by wingmelydiawing at bookring in bookring, Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Thursday, November 03, 2005

Released 14 yrs ago (11/3/2005 UTC) at bookring in bookring, Bookring -- Controlled Releases



Mailed this to Luintaurien this morning.

Journal Entry 13 by Luintaurien from York, Nebraska USA on Thursday, November 10, 2005
Got it today. Thank you. Will read and pass on ASAP.

Journal Entry 14 by Luintaurien from York, Nebraska USA on Sunday, February 05, 2006
Not my cup of tea so sending it on.

Journal Entry 15 by Luintaurien at Bookring in Bookring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Released 14 yrs ago (2/7/2006 UTC) at Bookring in Bookring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases



Journal Entry 16 by titihood on Friday, February 24, 2006
This arrived in the post today after nearly a week of empty postbox :(:( So I am glad! I have been intrigued about this book ever since I heard of it, and am even more impressed by the fact that it is a translation - that must have been one hell of a job!
I've got three more bookring books to read before I can start this one (the pile is diminishing). Thanks for sharing GeeMont :)
20/03/06: Like the other Bookcrossers before me, I found the idea of this book intriguing; even more so that it is a translation (that must have been one hell of a project!). However the book itself unfortunately failed to inspire. It was far too painfully constructed and not that pleasant to read. The plot was all over the place (well up to as far as I got) and although I kept trying to read it properly it just annoyed me and I was skimming it. I give it 5 stars though because of the concept... Hopefully the next BCer will get more out of it than me! Am PMing them today for address.
23/03/06: Sent to LastMango expresspost (only 25c more than regular post - crazy!)

Journal Entry 17 by LastMango from Little Britain, Ontario Canada on Friday, March 24, 2006
Received in today's mail. Thanks!

Journal Entry 18 by LastMango from Little Britain, Ontario Canada on Tuesday, March 28, 2006
I didn't get far enough into this one to rate it. Just not my style.

Mailed today to RockDg9. (Airmail...I learned my lesson on sending books "surface" the last time I sent a book to Australia)

Journal Entry 19 by RockDg9 from Toowoomba, Queensland Australia on Monday, April 10, 2006
Arrivd today - okay, okay, so I couldn't not use an 'e' even in one word without cheating! This looks interesting, and funny in parts (I've flicked) but also that it could get a bit tedious with the writing style as others have mentioned - I'll give it a go though.

Journal Entry 20 by RockDg9 from Toowoomba, Queensland Australia on Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Hmm well ... it's not the greatest work of fiction ever is it? :oD

I do like the concept, I would have liked the book to be a lot shorter. I mean, it's fantastic that this concept has worked, and it would be just as fantastic if the book was half as long - no one would be saying "Well, you did manage to write a novel without an 'e', but dude, it was short!"

The incessant listing and present tense writing style was highly distracting. That said, there were parts with laugh out loud humour (Robinson Ismhail ...and ... Quoth that Black Bird: "Not Again!") And the entire basis of the main character's insomnia was quite clever.

So, I have really enjoyed the opportunity to experience this book, but like affinity4books, I gave up at page 75! (no really, I just looked, that's where my bookmark is)

Have PMd next participant and will post on once I've confirmed postal details.

Journal Entry 21 by RockDg9 from Toowoomba, Queensland Australia on Tuesday, April 25, 2006
RockDg9 mails this book today - it is now flying to Finland.

Journal Entry 22 by CatharinaL from Pirkkala, Pirkanmaa / Birkaland Finland on Friday, May 05, 2006
Sain kirjan tänään postissa, kiitos! Ainakin hämäläisittäin pärjää vallan hyvin ilman aakkosiston toista vokaalia.

The book arrived this morning--thank you so much for sending, RockDg9! I'll get to reading this asap; I've been so looking forward to getting my hands on another one of Perec's inventions. I just proved above that it's not downright impossible to do without e's in Finnish... but in English I can't seem to manage even one line :-)

Journal Entry 23 by CatharinaL from Pirkkala, Pirkanmaa / Birkaland Finland on Sunday, June 11, 2006
I'm sorry I've kept the book for so long... I just got back from a vacation last week, and have been catching up with my reading since :-) I'm almost done with the book already & should be able to mail it to the next participant next week. In the meantime, I'll just put in a couple of random notes on the book while I'm at it...

This has been an interesting read. I love wordplay, crosswords puzzles & cryptograms, so I knew what to expect--to some extent. We studied Queneau [Raymond Q. Knowall :-)], Perec & co. in a French Lit class a long time ago. At the time, I was majorly inspired by Oulipo and I promised myself to read as much of their original work as possible--but now 10 years have passed and this ring was actually my first sight of La Disparition since!

I was surprised by the way the translation flowed in its distinct mock-classic fashion; it was rather an extraordinary work. Sometimes, however, I felt as if the task of translating such a book from French to English must've been a lot more enjoyable than the actual reading! Some of the puns escaped me, no matter how I tried to look at them.

There were plenty of puns in the style of "Moby Dick--a moody Bic"; wordplay on the missing letter e; and parody of mostly every literary & scientific style imaginable. I wonder if the total number of different types of puns incorporated in the book amounted to 25 or 26?? :-) I really enjoyed Vowl's 'translation' of The Raven and other poems :-) The pseudo-science resembling comparative literature (p. 111-112) was just hilarious, and the omnipresent references to fictitious and real literary figures and whole books/stories were mind-boggling to say the least--I couldn't even keep count of every hint and detail, even though I tried to write them down as I proceeded with the reading!

What was particularly intriguing about reading the book was the distinction between the ghosts of missing e's and suspicious-looking words that nevertheless turned out 'unmarked': just when I'd expected a missing e somewhere in the background and tried to reconstruct the original word/phrase, I realized I'd been fooled and there actually wasn't an e missing in that particular passage! However, despite the very enjoyable detective-game, I was troubled with the lack of any real 'sense' or a common denominator in the story. And sometimes the use of alternative spellings, especially in names such as Capharnaüm (Capernaum) and Tirana (Tirane), got a little tiresome. Elsewhere, though, I enjoyed names such as Anton Vowl (vowel, not an [e]?) and Amaury Conson (a mori with the sound?).

Journal Entry 24 by eatsletters on Wednesday, June 14, 2006
I had completely forgotten I signed up for this. but the concept sounds very interesting, so am looking fwd to it (again)

Journal Entry 25 by eatsletters on Monday, October 09, 2006
oh wow oh wow oh wow.

I have to admit the language was difficult to follow for a non-native speaker because there are so many synonyms etc. But it was a magnificent read, I really enjoyed the word plays, the story, and of course the concept.

It is really sad my French is not good enough to read the original...

Great book!

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