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A Void Hardcover – January, 1995

4.0 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"A true tour de force: a full-length novel containing not a single 'E'. An entertaining post-modern detective story...dazzling... the translator's dazzling recreation conveys the author's near magical cleverness while preserving an underlying seriousness that makes this book much more than a curiosity" New Yorker "Adair's translation is an astounding Anglicisation of Francophonic mania, a daunting triumph of will pushing its way through imposing roadblocks to a magical country, an absurdist nirvana, of humour, pathos and loss" Time --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill; First Edition edition (January 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002711192
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002711197
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,084,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Six plus six plus four months ago, I bought a book: A Void. Originally, an author (G. P*r*c) first thought of A Void (or La Disparition) in 1967. In 1994, it was brought out from a country at a north Atlantic location in which Français is usually a normal way of articulating in writing and out loud and into a form of communication which most inhabitants of this country (US of A) know. This translator was a Mr. Adair. This book is a highly fantastic book. A linguistic madman who thought it up was choosing to put A Void on papyrus without a symbol in a form of communication, this missing fifth symbol. This author, or madman, was brilliant and did it without any faults, as did translator Adair. Why? I don't know. Author was crazy as a fox is crazy.
In this book, this Void, I found no lack of things for stimulation of my mind. In fact, Void is not a void at all. Pagination # 104:
`Twas upon a midnight tristful, I sat poring, wan and wistful
Through many a quant and curious listful of my consorts slain.
"Aha!" you shout out (not vocalizing too loudly, I wish), "that's a translation of an 18-stanza rhyming story by--"
But I cannot put to papyrus what you shout. I can, though, say that A Void lists author of rhyming as "Arthur Gordon Pym," thus naming a man from a work that this actual author did not finish. (Two or 3 of a group would say this man was too full of phobia at his own construction, à la an individual of physics, biology, and so on, in Mary's horror story about a monstrous guy known as Frank in a common-drinking-glass [I ask your pardon for this bad pun].
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Format: Paperback
You may think that a book omitting a particular character (okay, I can't do this without the letter "e") may get monotonous. But the book held my interest with a good plot, characters, and development. It catches the reader off guard with twists and turns and resolves with a conclusion that leaves no loose ends and provides a very satisfied feeling in the reader.

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).
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Format: Hardcover
Won't try to keep up the non-e business here :) I have no idea why anyone finds this book tedious. It has a killer, loopy, murder mystery plot, but also manages to be a deeply felt meditation on absence and the way absences constitute our lives. Lots in common with Derrida, etc. The translation is a work of genius/insanity. I can't imagine a better job being done.
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Format: Paperback
Perec lost his mother in the Holocaust. A Void is precisely about the difficulty of speaking in the absence of the most necessary thing. Not merely an intellectual tour de force -- although certainly that -- but one of the most subtle things ever written on grief.
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Format: Paperback
A Void is a fifty-thousand-word lipogram (writing which unfailingly omits a particular orthographic symbol) posing as a work of fiction. I'm sorry, but I simply cannot put in a good word for this book. Just trying to slog through it was causing such an aching pain in my skull that I almost quit. How I wish I had! Arriving at its conclusion didn't accomplish anything significant for my mind or spirit.

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.
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Format: Paperback
In words that twist within a mighty bind, a dark void winds away to worlds known but not any I can show. In this book a constant hum runs just out of mind's ability to grasp. Although many draw nigh, no pilgrim grabs it's ring of brass. Will you?

A quandry; a missing part runs far within this book but is not shown. All talk, but say naught of this void. Oh longing, may this book fulfill. It has not any of a mainstay in our world. Try it on your own, The pain is worth it, so says I who has been through this hurt upon my own. It is truly amazing.

NOTE: Not to be included in this review!! This book is a murder mystery written entirely without the letter "e" (as is this feeble review). The translator is a true genius as much as the author. His rendering of Poe's "Raven" is by itself a literary achievement of significant note, not to mention the rest of the book. Although the language is necessarily tortured and convoluted, the story flows along brilliantly. Just as a character begins to get close to uncovering the reality of the missing letter, he is done away with. For those with the stamina, a truly worthwhile read
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