Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “W, or the Memory of Childhood” as Want to Read:
W, or the Memory of Childhood
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

W, or the Memory of Childhood

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  1,688 Ratings  ·  90 Reviews
Combining fiction and autobiography in a quite unprecedented way, Georges Perec leads the reader inexorably towards the horror that lies at the origin of the post-World War Two world and at the crux of his own identity.
Paperback, 164 pages
Published July 1st 2010 by David R. Godine Publisher (first published 1975)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about W, or the Memory of Childhood, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about W, or the Memory of Childhood

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Sometimes the face of an author or the title of a book conceals a lot more than what it is capable of revealing and the same happened when I picked this book. My first Perec and I expected something completely different from what was eventually encountered. W, or The Memory of Childhood is a revelation of unconventional sorts where the measured doses of harrowing truth are served in a fantastical glass bowl, which is destined or susceptible to break sooner than later.

She died without understa
Apr 25, 2015 Geoff rated it it was amazing
Like Federman’s body of work, here Perec is undertaking the terrible task of writing around the Shoah. For Perec, such a task is unavoidable, if he, as a writer, is to write an autobiography. As he says somewhere near the beginning of this book, he has no childhood memories, his history was written for him by History itself. W, the double-V, dooble-veh, twin Vs side-by-side, as a symbol manipulable into any number of iterations- turn it upside down it becomes the “M” of memory, join the twin Vs ...more
MJ Nicholls
Perec’s novel is one of the most incredible, inventive, stupefying, humble, and devastating books to indirectly confront the Holocaust. A masterpiece, as this quote proves:

“How can you explain that what he is seeing is not anything horrific, not a nightmare, not something he will suddenly wake from, something he can rid his mind of? How can you explain that this is life, real life, this is what there’ll be every day, this is what there is, and nothing else, that it’s pointless believing somethin
If you are thinking about reading W, you probably need some incentives to pick up a copy, apart from star ratings (and, be warned, after reading W, you way have unpleasant reactions to ratings in general in the future).
So here are some incentives: try to imagine writing a memoir of your childhood between the ages of three and nine, set in the period from 1939 to 1945. Imagine that you have only a few photos and that your own fairly vivid memories don't always match the accounts of relatives or
'Kay, I guess this book was not bad. It kinda worked for me, but then again, it didn't.

I mean, this guy is George frigging Perec, the guy who wrote stuff like La Disparition and Espèces d'espaces, so he's really super intelligent. And this book is very well constructed.

There're two stories that are being told. One is Perec's own childhood as a Jewish child in occupied France. He escapes the camps by being placed in a Catholic boarding school (sort of like Louis Malle's Au revoir, les enfants b
Stephen Durrant
Feb 27, 2014 Stephen Durrant rated it really liked it
Georges Perec's death in his mid-forties was almost as big a loss for the world of French literature as the similarly early death of Albert Camus. His was a most rich and creative mind, as his complex novel "Life, a User's Novel" probably best illustrates. "W," the short novel/autobiography under review here, like the French "double V," is made up of two connected narratives, presented in alternating chapters. One is comprised of fragmentary memories from Perec's childhood as an orphaned Jew, wh ...more
Adam Floridia
Jan 30, 2013 Adam Floridia rated it liked it
Fair warning, this review is going to be mostly quotations and a couple of personal meanderings.

“When I was thirteen I made up a story which I told and drew in pictures. Later I forgot it. Seven years ago, one evening, in Venice I suddenly remembered that this story was Called W and that it was, in a way, if not the story of my childhood, then at least a story of my childhood….W is no more like my Olympic fantasy than that Olympic fantasy was like my childhood. But in the crisscross web they wea
Çok iyi be. Perec, her zamanki gibi çok iyi.

Aslında kitabın ikinci bölümü, ilk önce bir hayli sıkıcı geldi; More'un Ütopya'sının sportif bir versiyonuydu zira, W ülkesinde anlatılan. Oysa satırlar ilerledikçe iş nasıl da değişti, nasıl da istediği yere yavaş yavaş getirdi lafı Perec!

Paralel ilerleyen anılar kısmı da, bir 'envanter üstadı' olarak bildiğimiz Perec'in kusursuz anlatımıyla doluydu. Hakkında bir dolu şey öğrendim ayrıca, mesela en başta, aslında Polonyalı olduğunu (bunu bilmemek belk
Jeff Jackson
Oct 12, 2009 Jeff Jackson rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-2
UPDATE: For those of you who've caught Olympic fever, this is the novel to read after the games. It'll shade your memory of the decathlon and many other track & field events. Perec's book has been haunting me in unexpected ways as I tune into the coverage.

4.5 stars. An affecting mix of autobiographical fragments, a page-turning mystery involving a strange letter, and a slightly schematic description of a society of athletes. These parallel narratives deal with the unreliable nature of memor
Feb 22, 2012 Sam rated it it was amazing
Certainly less mind-bending and self-consciously linguistically assured than Perec's other work, W nevertheless carries its own particular pleasures, and I would set it on the same shelf as A Void and Life: A User's Manual, although for entirely different reasons. Generally when it comes to Perec you're looking for amazing prose, or maybe for something more rarefied, even, like the generative workings of a lively mind released free-form onto the page. W is not that sort of book, by any means, ev ...more
Jan 24, 2011 Lee rated it liked it
Five total pages of five-star Perecian prose? The memoir stuff seemed truthful yet underdeveloped? The Kafkan report on the Darwinian society of uber athletes at times kicked some serious scary allegorical ass (pre-race battling and the spoils of victory) but often felt numerically obsessive/flat, which makes sense I guess as a way to approach the extreme systemic rationality built over the extreme demonic irrationality of Nazi atrocity, but still, not so hot to read? The tenuous connection betw ...more
C'est un livre magnifique que j'ai relu avec plaisir, mais moins d'empressement que la première fois.
La partie autobiographique m'a toutefois beaucoup plus impressionnée à la seconde lecture. La construction de la mémoire par l'écriture, problème classique de l'autobiographie ressassée depuis Saint-Simon prend ici des allures différentes. La mémoire fait constamment défaut. Le narrateur cherche dans les artéfacts de sa jeunesse, vieilles photos ou lieux revisités dans les années 70, le souvenir
Ben Winch
I didn’t get this. A “gutpunch”, as one reader would have it? Hell, maybe all that core-conditioning in karate is paying off, cos my guts were unscathed. Me, I found this dry, vapid, very tenuous. The link between the two strands I found slight, the link between the first and second halves of the second strand (ie: the Land-of-W part) non-existent, the whole thing half-baked though not a bad (if risky) idea in theory. Oh, and I thought the analogy (olympics to concentration camp) was a stretch. ...more
Jan 31, 2017 Pečivo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: svíčková
V této knize se Perec snaží dát dohromady střípky svýho dětství na který nemá mnoho vzpomínek. A já mu úplně rozumím. Sám totiž nevím asi až do mých 10ti let, která bije. A toluen sem nečuchal. Jen párkrat omylem ředidlo, když sem přišel pozdě do školy a musel za trest špachtlí a ředidlem škrabat žvejkačky z podlahy.

Tenhle francouzskej Václav upír Krejčí, co často strkal vidličku do zásuvky, vyrůstal za války ve Francii. Rodiče byli z Polska a taťka to nedal na frontě a mamka bohužel tě pic a n
May 04, 2012 James rated it it was amazing
A strange book. In fact one of those books which is so strange that you long to sit down with the author to understand exactly what was going through his mind when he decided to pair a story of his childhood with a gruesome account of sports mad dystopia. Was he highlighting the horror of Nazi ideology? Underlining the unreliability of memories by contrasting his recollections with a completely absurd story? It is a testament to Perec that whatever path of strangeness he decided to frolic down i ...more
Nov 07, 2013 Karielle rated it liked it
This was the first novel we read for my French literature class. (Prior to this, we perused Roland Barthes, as well as the film La Jetée, which were both stunning). Usually I'm more a fan of novels than I am of any other literary medium, but this one just didn't do it for me mainly because I've yet to understand it in its full... if it even is understandable, that is.

Yep. It's one of those.

If I end up writing an analysis for this later—or rather, if it's any good, considering we're all required
Kris Kipling
As autobiographies go this cryptic novella must be among the most unusual ever penned. Georges Perec’s parents were killed in concentration camps when he was a boy. The second chapter begins: I have no childhood memories... I was excused: a different history, History with a capital H, had answered the questions in my stead: the war, the camps.

Perec was one of those experimental French novelists who thrived in the 1960s and is most famous for writing a novel entirely without the letter E. Here he
M. D.  Hudson
Apr 14, 2010 M. D. Hudson rated it it was ok
To quote from the jacket blurb: “…W tells two parallel stories. The first is autobiographical, describing the author’s wartime boyhood. The second tale, denser, more disturbing, more horrifying, is the allegorical story of W, a mythical island of Tierra Del Fuego governed by the thrall of the Olympic “Ideal,” where losers are tortured and winners held in temporary idolatry.” Everything but the plug is correct here – the second allegorical tale is overly complicated, contrived and ultimately abou ...more
Claudia f. Savage
Jun 08, 2009 Claudia f. Savage rated it really liked it
Definitely one of the most devastating books about the Holocaust I've ever read.

It sneaks up on you, though, so give it a chance. All the banality that you think is trivial leads to an ending that sucker punches you on the jaw. Lights out.

The idea that sport is king on an imaginary island seems odd, but harmless. Then come the descriptions of gang rape, starvation, murder, and child abuse on a scale you just can't believe.

The fact that he mirrors this so delicately with memories of his own chil
Solange te parle
Aug 13, 2015 Solange te parle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Ce n'est pas le Perec que je préfère. Il m'aura sûrement manqué des bribes de la biographie de l'auteur pour tout assimiler. Dans le genre vagues souvenirs d'une enfance meurtrie pendant la guerre, mon cœur appartient à Modiano ! Reste que la description de la vie W (la lettre étant employée comme adjectif) vous en bouche un coin.
May 04, 2013 Sam rated it really liked it
Pour E... Pour eux....

« Je ne retrouverai jamais, dans mon ressassement même, que l’ultime reflet d’une parole absente et l’écriture, le scandale de leur silence et de mon silence : je n’écria spas pour dire que je ne dirai rien, je n’écris pas pour dire que je n’ai rien à dire… »

W ou le souvenir d’enfance est un livre composé de fragments, des fragments de souvenirs perdus dans un passé trouble et palpable à la fois, où Perec s’approprie des actes dont il a été parfois le témoin, il erre dans u
Dec 05, 2015 E rated it really liked it
Second half brings it home. What starts out as an attempt at clearing bleary recollection and memory of lineage becomes a story (as per the composite of the two) of how "bigger" and far more unjust forces--in this case, the cruelty of rules and whimsies in W, and the Holocaust--eclipse the particularities and curiosities of one's individual life, the truth or immovability of which continues to persist despite its apparent and revolting menace.

"How can you explain that this is life, real life, th
Other than (my boy forever) Italo Calvino, I'd never read any Oulipo writers before, and Perec was recommended to me. Oh man, two dovetailing narratives forming a cohesive and moving meditation on fascism, I dig this shit super-hard. Combining a fabulist perspective, a pointillistic, convincing memoir, and an overarching structurality, this is pretty remarkable in a lot of ways.
Baris Balcioglu
Jan 01, 2017 Baris Balcioglu rated it it was amazing
My note says I loved the book. Then I must read it in the original.
Paul Sloan
Jun 21, 2017 Paul Sloan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Do yourself a favour, read this book.

This is a phenomenal piece of writing and should be considered for it's relational qualities between fact and fiction. The interweaving narratives can feel confusing and unrelated, but they build to a climax the reader will enjoy, and things become clear.

Perec is a writer that I can only commend. I want to devour as much of his work as I can since reading this piece (I have also read "An Attempt..." by him).
I am saddened that his work is not included in scho
The Holocaust/concentration camp comparasions throughout the island of W and the atrocities of Pinochet (as referenced by Perec at the end of the book), are poignant and significant. Personally, I would have preferred more of the autobiography, than the fantasy of W. For once established, it held little for me. Having said that, the style and writing is good and would recommend.
Un récit d'enfance autobiographique sous fond de guerre, une utopie olympique W. comme second texte. La recherche de soi-même se mue en histoire concentrationnaire. Tout est lié. C'est un roman finalement assez sérieux.
Aug 18, 2012 Tine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Georges Perec "W eller erindringen om en barndom"

"W eller erindringen om en barndom" en todelt fortælling, hvor Georges Perec undersøger det stof minder og virkelighed er gjort af.

Mindernes sammenstød med virkeligheden
Den ene fortælling handler om Perecs oplevelser fra hans tid som barn under Anden Verdenskrig i Frankrig. Perec forsøger at efterprøve, hvor korrekte hans minder egentlig er.
Begge Perecs forældre døde under krigen og han sætter sig for at stykke et billede sammen af, hvem de var o
Dan Bristol
Sep 26, 2013 Dan Bristol rated it it was amazing
George Perec, like his American counterpart Charles Bukowski, had absolutely no interest in comforting his readers with emotionally satisfying reactions to aesthetically pleasing pastoral scenes. You will not find the moral reassurance and softly-lit cameos of Proust and the quaint English estates of K.m. Peyton. Perec, on the other hand, is not gratuitously brutal, and neither is "W". Perec has several narrative projects that run almost counterintuitively to the structure of his textual ambigui ...more
May 10, 2015 Asa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lot of Jewish authors has struggled with how to write about the Holocaust, and Perec's case is made harder by the fact that he was only a boy at the time and doesn't really remember those years in France when he was made to hide and disguise himself. Since Perec is Perec, when he decided to tell his story he didn't try to write a straightforward memoir, instead he chose to split the book into two sections: one where he goes through the things he does remember and the few mementoes he has left ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Enfance
  • Georges Perec: A Life in Words
  • Witch Grass
  • The Vice Consul (Pantheon Modern Writers Original)
  • L'Abbé C
  • The Ogre
  • Arcanum 17 (Green Integer)
  • Under Fire
  • Jealousy
  • The Devil in the Flesh
  • Autoportrait
  • A Balcony in the Forest
  • Oulipo Compendium
  • La Modification
  • Aurélien
  • Strait is the Gate
  • Locus Solus
  • La place
Georges Perec was a highly-regarded French novelist, filmmaker and essayist. He was a member of the Oulipo group. Many of his novels and essays abound with experimental wordplay, lists and attempts at classification, and they are usually tinged with melancholy.

Perec's first novel, Les Choses (Things: A Story of the Sixties) was awarded the Prix Renaudot in 1965.

In 1978, Perec won the prix Médicis
More about Georges Perec...

Share This Book