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53 Days (Verba Mundi) Hardcover – April 1, 2000

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Two ancient biblical documents reveal long-buried secrets that could change the world as we know it. The team's mission: find the stolen documents and capture—or kill—those responsible for unleashing a coordinated and unprecedented attack on US soil. See more
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Perec (Life, a User's Manual) had finished 11 of his planned 28 chapters in this murder mystery at the time of his death from cancer in 1982. Distinguished colleagues and fellow novelists Mathews and Roubaud, guided by Perec's voluminous notes and drafts, assembled this version of his complex literary thriller in 1989. Now translated into English, this novel/puzzle is an intellectual dragnet whose narrator is called upon by the French Consul to unravel the mystery of the disappearance of famous French crime-writer Robert Serval. The narrator must investigate in secret, armed with only a briefcase containing Serval's manuscript, called "The Crypt," which contains a story of love, murder and secret codes, set in the freezing Nordic country of Fernland. The narrator, meanwhile, lives in fictional French Grianta, a region of blisteringly hot weather. The collection of puzzling clues, which he decodes, recombines, and cross-references, are full of literary puns, acronyms, palindromes and equations. Conceived of in Chinese boxes, this novel leans heavily on its many references. The narrator and the reader are often abruptly referred to the works of Agatha Christie and Andr? Gide; and the title itself reflects the time it took Stendhal to write The Charterhouse of Parma. The narrator may or may not be distinct from author Perec, just as the framing novel may mirror, foil or illuminate the mystery of "The Crypt." By the end, Perec/the narrator has decided upon a solution, not to be confused with the truth, which, "barely touched upon, recedes into the distance." While the linguistic brainstorm, complete with its unorthodox format and formulae, may baffle, fans of Perec (who wrote his novel A Void completely omitting the letter "e") should anticipate that the "just the facts, ma'am" mode of detective novels will be ingeniously frustrated in his last work.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

53 Days ($23.95; Sept. 30, 272 pp.; 1-56792-088-8). Though mystery addicts may balk at its inconclusiveness, readers of every other persuasion will find much to delight them in this deft intellectual thriller left unfinished when Perec, arguably this century's most accomplished metafictionist and punster (such innovative texts as Life: A User's Manual,1987, and A Void,1995) died in 1982. The search for missing mystery writer Robert Serval, conducted by this storys narrator, a teacher ``studying'' Serval's uncompleted manuscript The Crypt, rapidly escalates into a voyage to remote (imaginary) territory and a series of droll parodies of literary ancestors (Agatha Christie is a prominent example). Even in its inchoate state (smoothed out by fellow ``Oulipo'' experimentalists Mathews and Roubaud), Perec's dazzling gamesmanship offers sophisticated pleasures reminiscent of, and often equal to, the legacies bequeathed to us by his masters Joyce and Nabokov. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Series: Verba Mundi
  • Hardcover: 258 pages
  • Publisher: David R Godine; 1st American ed edition (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567920888
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567920888
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,434,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Perec's literary output was as varied as anyone's, comprising everything from encyclopedic novels to comic couplets, but he was consistent in one way--the quality of his writing was always excellent. Each of his works revelled in the myriad delights of language, whatever its subject. In this novel, published posthumously in an unfinished form, he uses the generic elements of the mystery novel, confounding and fulfilling them at the same time. A writer disappears from a fictional French African colony, and an unwilling acquaintance is drafted to study the vanished man's final manuscript for clues. The usual dangerous woman makes an appearance, and there are plenty of veiled warnings that the search should be dropped, but at each turn the narrator, well-versed in fictive custom, recognizes the conventions and turns them on their heads. The chapters abound with references to other works, classics and potboilers alike, and the plot in fact begins to hinge on them. Perec scholars or fans will additionally note a host of allusions to his own oeuvre and coded biographical details. Mystery aficionados will be disappointed that "53 Days" was never completed, but its editors have included the outlines and notes that wrap the story up; anyone with an interest in the writing process should find that these appendices more than make up for what's missing.
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