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Georges Perec: A Life in Words : A Biography American Ed Edition

2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0879239800
ISBN-10: 0879239808
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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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 802 pages
  • Publisher: David R Godine; American Ed edition (September 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879239808
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879239800
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,475,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ben Singleton on May 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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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