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A Void (Verba Mundi) Paperback – November 30, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
A few caveats; take your time reading it, don't be afraid to read something again, and researching some of the influences on Perec's life that affected how the book was written open up a new dimension to A Void (I know this because I did a paper on the themes and influences present in the book).
It is just plain silly to churn out paragraph upon paragraph of a story bound by such an artificial and arbitrary linguistic constraint. Why would anybody do such a thing? To show off an ability with a dubious "skill" that confounds clarity of thinking and prohibits lucid points? Obviously by dropping this childish limitation you could actually say what you want, and in a lyrical or charming way to boot. This is not to imply that all constraint is a sign of immaturity. Rhyming and rhythm may constrain an author a bit, but a truly high-quality group of such stanzas contains a captivating kind of music. It is a constraint, all right, but it adds. This kind, though, just subtracts, corrupts, and distorts.
As it stands, this book's grammar sounds unnatural and awkward; its vocabulary shifts without warning from archaic and formal to "hip" and slangy; its plot (a minor thing, almost a postscript) absurdly twists and turns to satisfy our all-important typographical constraint. That's all okay, I'll grant, if this activity is just a hobby and its author aims only for gratification of his own abnormal soul. But inflicting this inanity of wordplay on a broad population is wholly unsatisfactory. Only a totally masochistic bookworm would gladly put up with it, gaily consuming a full publication with only this frivolous trick as its basis.Read more ›
People are struck at the amazing idea of writing a book without the letter "e," and also at the accomplishment of the translator at finding reasonable equivalents for so many of Perec's solutions.
But that's just praising virtuosity: if the book is as important as some of his other books, there has to be another effect of his choice. Perec is, I think, one of the most interesting postwar writers. "Life: A User's Guide" is tremendous, and "W" is entirely different and equally astonishing. But "A Void" is experimental in a different sense.
Perec himself helpfully gives the reasons for his experiment in the penultimate section of the book. He says (1) the book might be a "stimulant... on fiction-writing today," (2) that it would be "a spur to [the] imagination," (3) that it might be a "wilfully critical" provocation "vis-a-vis fiction." For an ideal reader, then, this book is a model of the kind of radical strategy that has to be adopted to make the novel a viable form.
I have no criticism of that ambition. Raymond Roussel's "Locus Solus" is a deep well here -- it is alluded to throughout the book -- and I completely agree that much in Roussel remains unmined. The difficulty, for me, is in the exact ways that the strategy of avoiding the letter "e" plays out in individual passages.Read more ›
A Void is a literary feat: it is, in short, a novel written without a single E in its 300 pages. While Life a Users Manual is considered his magnum opus, A Void stands as a triumph in taking a constraint, the lipogram, and making it work in long form fiction. And beyond that, Perec found that the constraint provided a means to break free of our ideas of what could be done with fiction.
"My ambition, as Author, my point, I would go so far as to say my fixation, my constant fixation, was primarily to concoct an artifact as original as it was illuminating, an artifact that would, or just possibly might, act as a stimulant on notions of construction, of narration, of plotting, of action, a stimulant, in a word, on fiction-writing today."
Anton Vowl is the subject of this novel; or, more accurately, his disappearance serves as a catalyst for this literary whodunit that leads his friends on a twisting and turning path, following half clues and false paths. In this essay on reading Perec, Warren Motte points to voids in Perec's own life--namely, his parents:
"On the other hand, the absence of a sign is always the sign of an absence, and the absence of the E in A Void announces a broader, cannily coded discourse on loss, catastrophe, and mourning.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is an amazing feat of both writing and translation. It's a bit like an easy Finnegans Wake. Perec writes an interesting story about the missing letter "e". Read morePublished on November 30, 2013 by Chris Reich
A Void by Georges Perec is not your ordinary novel. It's a lipogram, a literary work that omits a particular letter or word. This book is entirely "void" of the letter "E. Read morePublished on April 26, 2013 by ReadingintheGarden
This book is a massive exercise in craft! Mr. Perec tackles the challenge of writing a entire novel without the use of the letter e. Read morePublished on October 14, 2012 by Nickolus Meisel
This writer is like no other. To be able to write a whole novel and not include the letter E is a task. He writes well and keeps you in suspense. highly recommended.Published on January 17, 2011 by Jose N. Reyes
This book was written without the use of the letter `e'. While this is an impressive achievement; there is a trivia question about Gadsby: A Lipogram Novel that was written in... Read morePublished on August 5, 2010 by J. Edgar Mihelic