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Georges Perec: A Life in Words [Kindle Edition]

David Bellos
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

"It's hard to see how anyone is ever going to better this User's Manual to the life of Georges Perec" - Gilbert Adair, Sunday Times

Winner of the Prix Goncourt for Biography, 1994

George Perec (1936-82) was one of the most significant European writers of the twentieth century and undoubtedly the most versatile and innovative writer of his generation.

David Bellos's comprehensive biography - which also provides the first full survey of Perec's irreverent, polymathic oeuvre - explores the life of an anguished, comical and endearingly modest man, who worked quietly as an archivist in a medical research library. The French son of Jewish immigrants from Poland, he remained haunted all of his life by his father's death in the war, fighting to defend France, and his mother's in Auschwitz-Birkenau. His acclaimed novel A Void (1969) - written without using the letter "e" - has been seen as an attempt to escape from the words "père", "mere", and even "George Perec".

His career made an auspicious start with Things: A Story of the Sixties (1965), which won the Prix Renaudot. He then pursued an idiosyncratic and ambitious literary itinerary through the intellectual ferment of Paris in the 1960s and 1970s.He belonged to the Ouvrior de Littérature Potentielle (OuLiPo), a radically inventive group of writers whose members included Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino. Perec achieved international celebrity with Life A User's Manual (1978), which won the Prix Medicis and was voted Novel of the Decade by the Salon du Livre. He died in his mid-forties after a short illness, leaving a truly puzzling detective novel, 53 Days, incomplete.

"Professor Bellos's book enables us at once to relish the most wilfully bizarre aspects of Perec's oeuvre and to understand the whys and wherefores of his protean nature" - Jonathan Romney, Literary Review

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Best known for Life: A User's Manual , French novelist Perec (1936-1982) employed multiple narrative styles, word games, jokes, arcane quotations and other devices to delineate the self's relation to a fragmented world. In this exhaustive biography, a remarkable piece of detective work that should stimulate new interest in Perec's massive output, Bellos examines how Perec, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants to Paris, suffered crippling grief, anger and guilt after losing both his parents in WW II--his father died on the battlefield fighting German soldiers, his mother was murdered in Auschwitz. Bellos, English translator of Perec's novels, discusses his leftist politics and deep ambivalence about his Jewishness; his identification with Kafka; and the intricate connections between Perec's life and art. He also surveys Perec's activities as filmmaker, poet, writer of innovative radio plays, and his participation in the OuLiPo group devoted to the cross-fertilization of literature, mathematics, logic and computer science. Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Perec, separated from his Jewish mother and father in the war (the older Perec died as a soldier), grew up in the France of Raymond Queneau, Alain Robbe-Grillet, and Roland Barthes, in an era that held Joyce and Nabokov to be its greatest literary gods. These names give an indication of the nature of Perec's work: playful, puzzling, coded, deconstructing, eccentric, and very much in the camp of not so much a "life in words" as a "life as words." Perec wrote crossword puzzles, recorded in one book all his dreams from a period in the 1960s, wrote moving memoirs of his childhood, authored a film, wrote the world's longest palindrome, and constructed a great "deconstructive" novel (Life: A User's Manual) that actually fails to deconstruct. There is no doubt that Perec was a great original (he died, sadly, at the age of 46), and Bellos, his translator as well as his biographer, has written about as exhaustive a first biography as one is likely to meet. Obviously an item for larger literary collections, it is, nevertheless, an invaluable guide to a great and too-little-known writer's work. Stuart Whitwell

Product Details

  • File Size: 3356 KB
  • Print Length: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (November 30, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #368,257 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big, complete, but readable May 24, 2000
Bellos' big, exhaustive raccount of the life and works of one of France's most contreversial modern writers is a thorough insight, both into the family background, the struggles of a writer trying to make a living, and the works themselves. Perecs' books, peppered with clues, quizzes and games, are reinterpreted, giving the reader a new incentive to go back to the texts to more fully understand the author, as essentially a "normal" man.
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Format:Kindle Edition
GEORGES PEREC: A Life in Words is David Bellos's biography of the madcap 20th-century French writer best known for his massive novel Life A User's Manual and the constrained writing masterpiece (the letter "e" is never used in hundreds of pages) A Void. Published in 1993, this was the first biography of Perec in any language and its import can be seen its warm reception in Perec's native France as in the English-speaking world.

Bellos based the biography on archival research and on conversations with the writer's friends and family, many of whom were still very much alive when he wrote it as Perec had died at the untimely age of 46 only a decade before. The biography is divided into sixty-six short chapters, and at the end of each Bellos credits his written sources and the various individuals whose oral testimony he relied on for that particular passage.

While fans may know that, in spite of his Breton-sounding surname, Perec was born to Polish Jewish immigrants, Bellos elucidates his entire family tree, which spanned not only Poland and France, but many other countries around the world as well. His close relatives were major players in the international pearl trade and built roads across Israel, and his cousin Bianca Lamblin is known for her sexual relationship with Jean-Paul Satrtre Simone de Beauvoir as a schoolgirl (though Bellos wrote this before the revelations of Beauvoir's misdoings).
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