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A Void

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3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  1,529 ratings  ·  187 reviews
An OuLiPo mystery in which the formal constraint is that the letter "e" can't be used. The letter "e" being the most commonly used letter in both French (the original language of this book) & English (the language into which Gilbert Adair has translated this for this edition), the translator deserves extraordinary credit.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 3rd 1994 by Harvill Press (first published 1969)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Manny
God, this is hard. I'm just aiming for two to four paragraphs, and I'm stuck. I can hardly do a thing. And this guy has a solid book, with a plot and all. Smart, no doubt about it. But... what's this book's point? Naturally, you want to know that, and so do I. I think that I can say it in this way. You might lack an important thing, and not know it's missing. Your world looks okay, almost normal. But no, in fact it's not normal or okay at all, if you think a bit.

The rest of this review is avail
...more
Jessica
Jan 02, 2014 Jessica marked it as to-read
Recommends it for: if you DON'T want to buy a you-know-what
Recommended to Jessica by: my good buddy and cohabitant
A girl I room with owns this book, and following our talk tonight about it at our local bar, I'm now looking into A Void. I doubt I'll go far in my try, but will admit to a strong curiosity, though his story might not turn out so amazing. No doubt this was a blast to craft, but, I hazard, not as much fun to look through, sort of similar to studying a crossword you didn't do.... Still, I'll sally forth boldly with a stab at it. Why not?

FYI, I'm now involuntarily thinking within the limits put dow
...more
Emma Sea
OH MY GOD.

No. Just no.

I am taking my own advice: life is too short.

yes; Perec and Adair are both very clever. And I actually enjoyed the introduction. I would have been happy to have left it there: a short, witty, intellectual exercise. But it's Johnson's dog!

I have abandoned the book, like a broken umbrella. It's in the magazine holder at Columbus Coffee next to Auckland Hospital. Have at it, fellow Aucklanders.
Madeleine
Okay. Let's all take a second to appreciate that this was both written and translated without a single instance of the letter "e." You have to respect that kind of lipogrammic dedication on both the author's and translator's parts (translating the puns to be relevant in another language deserves additional kudos). Its effect on the dialogue, narrative and story itself is a wonder to behold in its own right.

This is a hard one to review because most of what I want to say would divulge too many spo
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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Occasionally one finds succinct answers to the rather conservation [sic -- obv. we mean ‘conservative’] objections that all this POMO is just self-indulgent game=playing with language, (etc). And, yes, we can blame DFW for earning this lazy accusation so much cred. I really don't want to rehearse all the various variations these kinds of things take on. You know, like with Husserl, that :: The work is the thing. Nevertheless, one might always provide one of those gottcha moments which you always ...more
Whitaker
What It’s About: A Short Account

Anton Voyl is ill. Insomnia and illusions assail him. Doctors, pills, visits to hospitals bring no avail. At night, Anton scrawls drafts of fictional accounts, such as a story of Aignan killing a sphinx and fucking(3), all unknowingly, his mama(3). Days and nights pass thus, all bringing only pain. His body shrinks, until, finally, oblivion claims him.

His pal(3), Amaury Conson, looks for him. His only hint is Anton’s last puzzling mail with this post-scriptum, hi
...more
Adam Floridia
Holy shit!


(That's really all I wanted this review to be, but I've got to add two "complaints." 1) I WISH I had just happened upon this book without knowing what the "gimmick" (said with NO negative connotation!) was. Of course, I would have needed an edition that did not have this spoiler of a cover, either. My assumption is that most people, like me, now read this book simply because they've heard "it's that book with [or without]...." Just in case you're reading this and don't know, PLEASE jus
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Jack Waters
4.5 stars

"Vowl is missing!"

That’s corr ct: Anton Vowl, protagonist, nds up missing at on point. But pl nty of oth r vow ls ar missing as w ll, s ing as ‘A Void’ is an incr dibl lipogram in ‘ ‘. Not only did G org s P r c, whos first and last nam contain two 's, writ th ntir nov l in his nativ Fr nch without th ir l tt r ‘ ‘, but th translator Gilb rt Adair, h of only on ‘ ‘ in his nam , has translat d it without ‘ ‘'s into nglish, a languag so rif and rich with ‘ ‘'s that it b gins with th l tt
...more
Jason
Totally satisfying, though not for folks lacking stoicism and assiduity. Probably most highly thought of by souls familiar with and forgiving of structuralist and po-mo thought. I still cannot avoid basking in our author's playful adaptations of traditional familiar works, such as Ozymandias, Song of Solomon, and a short synopsis of Moby Dick. Playful and succinct (sort of), with not a Vowl too many.
MJ Nicholls
So impressive, the lack of coherence or interest is irrelvant. Honestly. Try writing a sentence without an E. Go on. See? Five stars.
Bill
what an amazing book. this is a 285 page novel that doesn't contain a single letter e. not only that, but it was originally written in french without a single e and then translated into english with the same criteria. that must have been one of the most difficult translating jobs ever.

and what's even more fantastic is the book actually basically makes sense, has a plot of sorts, and is actually a joy to read.and it's fun,because it is quite amusing in parts.i really can't think of much more to s
...more
Conrad
Two stars; it's not that interesting. That said, the translator deserves twenty for translating a French novel that omits the letter E into an English novel that does the same. In French, if you drop all Es, you can still write the feminine singular form of the. Because we don't have an e-less version of "the," though, the verbal calisthenics that go into doing without the French "la" are pretty spectacular. I'm pushing it by filing A Void under read - I put it down a little over halfway through ...more
James
An amazing, frustrating, frivolous absurdity of a book. Consumption of a void is akin to watching a dog play Mozarts most popular hits on a harpsichord. You applaud Spot`s instructors bragadaccio but any appraisal of musical quality is moot. In A Void`s plot is a soap drama of ironic stupidity in stark contrast to its amazing wordplay. Anton Vowl has vanished and soon his flock of pals start dying in highly idiotic ways. Not that you in any way mind, as I was far too busy admiring the singular p ...more
Andrew
AN ANALYSIS THAT WILL LACK A CERTAIN... SYMBOL

I'll start by saying an apology to the author-- though I could totally do La Disparition in its original français, I opt for a copy in its anglais avatar, A Void (translation isn't a right word in this scenario).

So my shock at a man's ability shall go to A Void's "translator," Gilbert Adair, who not only could bring La Disparition into its "A Void" incarnation, but also do oddball translations of oddball translations of Milton, Rimbaud, and so on, in
...more
Parrish Lantern
A Void (La Disparition)–Georges Perec

A Lipogrammatic Synopsis ---- which with artful constraint will focus savor, nay passion and by addition of vigorous acuity and highbrow purport, may transplant mirth as though a frolicking Pan full of ambrosial liquor.

As his country is torn apart by social and political anarchy, Anton Vowl, known capricious kook and insomniac, is missing. Ransacking his Paris accommodation (turning all up and down, all in & out), his top, top pals scour his diary for hin
...more
Andrew Hudson
This significant book (aka La Disparition, though its linguistically cunning author calls for no introduction) strains against a troublingly unjust handicap... in fact, two. It informs of a tall story, that of Anton Vowl, a similar champion of virtuoso wordplay who is lost to a churning, sorrowful world without warning, thus provoking a fatal inquiry amongst bosom companions and distant contacts both, all of whom follow suit in shrugging off this mortal coil by turns – but within this account of ...more
Jeff
I can't choose multiple dates, so instead I'll say here that I tried reading this book in '95, '97, '01, and again in '03. It kills me. Every time. The insomnia that has plagued me my whole life comes from the way I obsessively think about words and combinations of words. This is what goes through my head when I'm thinking of nothing else. Then this guy Gilbert Adair goes and translates a French novel written by Georges Perec in 1969, and I obsess over it. I start reading, and I can't get over h ...more
David
3 points for virtuosity; no points for soul.
Justin Evans
This is a perfect test-case for literature of constraint. Perec's constraint is tied to the content of his work (i.e., people die when they realize all the es are missing); his work is interesting independently of the constraint (i.e., it's funny and reflects on the literary tradition); in short, the *point* of the book is not the constraint itself.

I have no idea how seriously we're meant to take Perec's 'Postscript,' in which he more or less interprets the work for us. It is, he says, more or
...more
Chuck LoPresti
Bleatless dizzying bliss. Creation by omission. Literary Renaldo and the Loaf. Delicious as any Hambu Hodo I've ever heard. Krasznahorkai with a better sense of humor.

There is a plot that involves a why dunnit that will not appeal to most fans of mystery writing. Rather what Perec seems more interested in is a playful semiology of absence, an absence not a always a stark and empty void but but rather a void as structural signifier. This is a concept very easily understood by anybody with musica
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Lee Foust

If it was not only brilliant...

A rationalization or justification, or an account anyway, of its at first striking oddity of syntax, _A Void_ is writ with a _modus_ or approach in form beyond common or insignificant brio that the book itself explains in its postscript. Any stab at imitation, as is plain in this, a shot at calculating a kind of worth to such artistic shinanigans, can only act as a provocation to an I such as I, who also constructs narrations, as an invitation to my own imagination
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LaFleurBleue
Il m'a fallu longtemps pour me décider à ouvrir ce livre, dont je craignais qu'il n'ait ni structure, ni histoire, enfin bref ni queue ni tête à vouloir absolument se passer de la lettre e.
Eh bien non. Je me suis trompée et bien trompée. L'intrigue principale est d'inspiration policière, des personnages disparaissent à la recherche de cette mystérieuse chose manquante dont personne n'a plus vraiment conscience de l'absence.
Sur les 300 pages, il n'y a que 5 à 10 formulations qui m'ont semblé vra
...more
Hallogallo
At first sight, this lippogrammatic story is simply a show of authorial skill and wit; notwithstanding, this unusual approach to writing, in which a rigid constraint applying to a glyph from ISO basic Latin script (fifth from start) controls composition, allows for an amusing (although, at particular points, truly confusing) narration to unfold. Both author, of Oulipo acclaim, and translator Adair construct a brilliant compilation of noir motifs into a gripping conundrum. Any fan of wordplay or ...more
g


How do you write coherently about a book that was equal parts frustrating and marvelous? It’s probably best to start with its author, Georges Perec, who started out as the bane of my existence but I’m happy to report is on my list of authors that I admire. Apologies to Gary, who had to hear me gripe about A Void since we started reading this together. Perec was a French writer and a member of Oulipo from 1969 to his death in 1982. Though I have yet to read his other works (novels, play, poetry,
...more
Graham
This book is a lot of things. An impressive formalist excercise (an entire novel without the letter 'e' is no small feat). An almost textbook example of what would, within a few years of the novel's publication, become known as postmodernism. An oddball mystery, equally indebted to Monty Python and Marcel Duchamp.

What it possesses in formalist strength (the translator should also be commended for his verbiage, being able to translate the whole novel from its original French while maintaining the
...more
Dorian Neerdael
George Perec, membre de l'Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle (OULIPO), une des réactions (avec le théâtre de l'absurde) contre l'ignominie de la guerre, signe ici un livre détonant.

Dans La disparition, l'auteur mène jusqu'au bout son défi : faire un lipogramme en e. C'est-à-dire, pour être tout à fait clair, qu'il a réussi à écrire un livre entier sans JAMAIS utiliser la lettre e.

C'est un exploit à coup sûr. Mais notons que l'absence de cette voyelle handicape réellement la compréhension du text
...more
Tieu uyen
Một cuốn sách kì vĩ, một cuốn tiểu thuyết có đầy đủ mọi yếu tố tư tưởng của thời đại: trinh thám, siêu hình, hiện thực,chánh trị, thần thoại, tôn giáo, hiện sinh hiện đẻ, phân tâm học với tâm thần học, cho đến văn chương, nghệ thuật, văn hóa đủ thứ hầm bà lằng . . . Chỉ trừ chữ “E”. Từ nguyên tác cho đến bản dịch tiếng anh, quyển sách dày gần 300 trang nhưng ko có một chữ E nào, ko phải e ngại, ko phải e dè, ko phải e chi cả, mà là nguyên âm E. Không một nguyên âm E nào xuất hiện trong quyển sác ...more
Scott Peterson
I would give the overall story 3.5 or 4 stars but this is easily a 5 star book due to the author's ability to bend language to his will. It is definitely a book I am glad I read and I feel it is an experience that is well worth the effort.
Ulrik
Den berygtede roman uden bogstavet "e" er endelig blevet læst, og min gamle beundring af Georges Perec bistår, samt en ny beundring for den ret fabelagtige oversættelse af Gilbert Adair. Det er en historie som tager sin OuLiPoanske "constraint" til hjertet og bygger sit plot rundt omkring den i en verden som har et hulrum - et uforklarlig mangel. Det forvandler dermed historien til en krimi med en kraftigt eskalerende grotesk og konspiratorisk natur værdig af Thomas Pynchon. Den har lidt skønhed ...more
Patrick
Nov 04, 2008 Patrick rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who want to read something weird
Recommended to Patrick by: Chad A.
Much like a Tom Friedman OCD piece of art, A Void is an achievement of sublime proportions built from a mundane word game that is taken to an extreme. It's such a simple idea, yet it becomes so tangled as you progress to the conclusion. Georges Perec constructed this intricate constraint, that few people would ever attempt, out of a whim. It is far from a normal story, but there are points in which you forget that the game is going on. The book is playful and pokes fun at itself in many instance ...more
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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
More about Georges Perec...
Life: A User's Manual Species of Spaces and Other Pieces W, or the Memory of Childhood Things: A Story of the Sixties; A Man Asleep Les choses

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“A gap will yawn, achingly, day by day, it will turn into a colossal pit, an abyss without foundation, a gradual invasion of words by margins, blank and insignificant, so that all of us, to a man, will find nothing to say.” 8 likes
“And my Black bird, still not quitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On that pallid bust -- still flitting through my dolorous domain;
But it cannot stop from gazing for it truly finds amazing
That, by artful paraphrasing, I such rhyming can sustain--
Notwithstanding my lost symbol I such rhyming still sustain--
Though I shan't try it again!”
2 likes
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