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An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  513 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
One overcast weekend in October 1974, Georges Perec set out in quest of the "infraordinary": the humdrum, the non-event, the everyday--"what happens," as he put it, "when nothing happens." His choice of locale was Place Saint-Sulpice, where, ensconced behind first one café window, then another, he spent three days recording everything to pass through his field of vision: t ...more
Paperback, 55 pages
Published September 30th 2010 by Wakefield Press (first published 1975)
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Update 8/1/2012: I have revised this Goodreads book review into a proper essay, now published on the Eyeshot website (thanks to Lee for taking an interest! And thanks to all of you for for your likes and comments). I am leaving my original Goodreads review below, as a document of the first draft of this essay, flaws and all.

An Attempt At Exhausting A Book On Goodreads

Date: June 30, 2012
Time: 11:00 a.m.
Location: Kavarna (Cafe), Decatur GA
Weather: Sunny, Record Breaking Heat

A small book.

The pages
Dec 18, 2013 Warwick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paris, france, essays, oulipo

When my daughter was born last year we were living in Paris's sixth arrondissement, and every weekend, while my wife was at work presenting the news, I would walk up the rue du Cherche-Midi with the pushchair, cut right down rue du Vieux Colombier, and then circle round and round the Place Saint-Sulpice for hours on end waiting for Clementine to go to sleep.

The church there is my favourite in Paris, as beautiful as Notre-Dame but much quieter, and with an amazing organ whose organist used to pra
Jul 27, 2010 Tosh rated it really liked it
Georges Perec wrote this fascinating little (very little but beautifully designed) book regarding one location in Paris, and documenting what was happening around that section. And that is basically it! Buses come and go, taxi stand, children walk by as others. Totally uninteresting and that is what's interesting about it.

Perec only records what's not interesting and by doing that he is capturing a series of moments that one never pays attention to. And there is a beauty to that. Also Perec is
May 27, 2011 Jesse rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jesse by: Aimee
An experiment, and one ultimately doomed to failure; its failure, however, is also its greatest strength. It's essentially an extended list of details ("some cars dive into the parking lot./ an 86 [bus] passes by. A 70 passes by," etc, etc), something that would seem to make for a rather dull read.

But I found it one of the most invigorating reading experiences I've had in a long while. Not particularly, I admit, because of the text itself, but in the way that it suddenly made me breathlessly at
Oct 12, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: oulipo fans, those who want to see it all
Perec's short book is an Oulipo-inspired attempt to record the "infraordinary" things which no one pays any attention to. In the space of 50 pages, he tries to record all that passes his field of vision, but as he (and the reader) quickly discover, it isn't really possible to see everything. Instead, as he makes his attempt, you start to imagine the Place Saint-Sulpice, and even though we're not sitting next to him nor looking through his eyes, an anxiety arises in the reader, "Is he seeing ever ...more
Jan 16, 2012 g rated it it was amazing
This is an edited version of my review, originally posted here:

An Attempt At Exhausting a Place in Paris is, essentially, a list. Perec set out to catalog the infraordinary, “what happens when nothing happens other than the weather, people, cars, and clouds”; or, those things that are oft ignored or unnoticed. Attempt is the result of this endeavor, which Perec carries out from various vantage points in the bustling Place Saint-Sulpice. Over a three-day p
Tomas Ramanauskas
Jul 27, 2015 Tomas Ramanauskas rated it liked it
Tiny book which is an experiment by Perec to explore the infraordinary (as oppossed to extraordinary) by sitting down and observing everything. At first look quite a mundane task becomes an act of alertness and attentiveness. In other words - being more alive than we routinely are.
Roger Brunyate
Apr 26, 2016 Roger Brunyate rated it it was amazing
Life Sneaks In

— Ground: packed gravel and sand
— Stone: the curbs, a fountain, a church, buildings…
— Trees (leafy, many yellowing)
— A rather big chunk of sky (maybe one-sixth of my field of vision)
— A cloud of pigeons that suddenly swoops down on the central plaza, between the church and fountain
— Vehicles (their inventory remains to be made)
— Human beings
— Some sort of basset hound
— Bread (baguette)
— Lettuce (curly endive?) partially emerging from a shopping bag

Journal entries from a man sitting
Nov 12, 2015 Erdinç rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Densysel edebiyat, oldukça geniş bir alanı kapsıyor. Joyce'un metinlerinden Vonnegut'unkilere, Cortazar'ın, Calvino'nun pel çok yapıtına dek. Ve tabii işin içinde Perec var. Ancak deneysel metinleri de bir şeyler anlatmalarına ya da metnin bütününüden parçalarına, bir özellik taşımalarına göre sanırım gruplara ayırabiliriz. Bir Paris Semtinin Tüketilme Denemesi, deneysel edebiyatın neredeyse bütünü deneysellikten ibaret, olmak istediği şeyden başka hiçbir şey olmayan bir parçası. Eğer ben de bir ...more
Aseem Kaul
Sep 11, 2014 Aseem Kaul rated it it was amazing
Strictly for Perec fans, this is a delightful litany of observations of a single place over a single weekend, whose fascination lies in its very banality--the way the mundane is transformed into something almost magically surreal by the very act of paying close attention.

To truly appreciate this book, spend an hour or two some Fall weekend sitting by a cafe window in any major city, watching everything that passes before you. You will come away with a store of scenes and images and observations
May 09, 2014 Jeroen rated it really liked it
The title of this little book has been haunting me for years; I finally plucked up the courage to peruse it. Courage, because to tear away your gaze from the extraordinary and fix it upon Perec's infraordinary, is an intimidating thing to do. The infinite repetitions Perec will attach to the square over the course of a weekend frighten easily: pigeons coming and going, church bells, people ordering coffee and smoking cigarettes, and especially endless numbers of bus numbers spewed out like codes ...more
Mar 24, 2015 Heather rated it really liked it
In October 1974, Georges Perec spent many hours over the course of three days (a Friday/Saturday/Sunday) sitting in cafés on the place Saint-Sulpice in Paris. This book, which was originally published in French in 1975, is the result. It's divided into days, and into numbered sections within each day. Each day starts with the date, time, location, and weather, and then Perec goes on to write about what's around him, focusing on "that which is not generally taken note of, that which is not notice ...more
Jan 21, 2014 Leah rated it it was ok
A book that technology has made obsolete. Perec's short declarative observations of the Place Saint Sulpice are neither particularly keen nor particularly pretty. But reminds, perhaps, that before Twitter, a certain kind of banality might have been)

(Though, here are interesting moments -- the arrival of buses -- time -- intervals, the bounded spatial imagination of pigeons, koan like meditations)

I liked:

“Right by the cafe, at the foot of the window and at three different spots, a fairly young
Mar 05, 2016 Shane rated it liked it
An interesting experiment in observation with Perec's flair and humour. The author spends three days noting his observations of a Parisian street corner. Reminded me of Agnes Varda's street observations, but the project felt a little incomplete by the end. Enjoyable for a short read.
Robert Stribley
Jan 08, 2013 Robert Stribley rated it liked it
Not a particularly strenuous attempt at being exhaustive, perhaps, but there are moments of beauty and Perec's implicit point of the impossibility of his task is well taken. Maybe sometime I'll sit in Astor Place for a day and attempt the same thing. When the weather's warmer.
Jun 28, 2014 Dido rated it did not like it
Perec'in okudugum ilk kitabi oldu. kotu bir baslangic. Uyuyan Adam'a baslayip devam etmemistim. Kutuphaneli kitabini ve yasam kullanma kilavuzunu okunacaklar listeme atmistim yillar once. bu kitabiyla ilk kez karsilastim.
kaydadeger bir sey yok. Paris'in bir meydanina uc gun boyunca oturuo gordugu ne varsa yazmis. otobus hatlari nerden nereye gittikleri, yuruyen insanlarin dikkatiji ceken ozellikleri, hava durumuna varana degin.
Edebiyatta denemeye acik bir yapim olmasina karsin, yillar sonra bile
Aug 11, 2012 Rita rated it liked it
Places and how much we miss. Glad that Perec didn't have to note people on cell phones walking down the street or sitting at other tables in the cafe.
Nov 29, 2014 Jason rated it really liked it
An interesting exercise in Georges Perec observing everything from Place Saint-Suplice in Paris over a three day period in October 1974. He exhaustively records colors, buses, people passing by, the different angles of vision, just about everything except the grand, historic and architectural items that would comprise just about every other account of Place Saint-Suplice. It feels like a performance art exercise that is interesting and thought provoking enough to justify the amount of time/atten ...more
Jan 07, 2012 Adam added it
Shelves: 2012readingyear
Tough to give a book like this a rating. It is short enough to be successful.
Ronnie Pitman
Feb 27, 2013 Ronnie Pitman rated it liked it
If tweeting had existed in 1974.
Aug 12, 2011 Martyn rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone looking for something different
What an amazing book. As the translator says, the attempt by Perec to detail everything he sees in three days from various points on the Place Saint-Sulpice in Paris, is ultimately doomed; if not artistically then simply by the impossibility of listing, and noticing, “everything”. But despite this fact, this book is still a triumph.

This is my first Perec read and I didn’t really know what to expect. It appealed to my quirky sensibilities that an author would try to list and categorize everything
Oct 20, 2014 Christa rated it liked it
Shelves: oulipo
An Attempt makes sense as part of Perec's ouvre, but isn't paricularly an exciting read as a stand-alone. The title accurately declares what the short volume sets out to do, and completes well: the book is about as exhausting of a description of the simple ins-and-outs and ticking timework of any single place that 50 pages can give. The listing, the documentation of the seemingly mundane, and the simultaneous irreverance toward and embracing of grammar constructs seem to be a natural lead-in for ...more
Jim Elkins
Oct 09, 2012 Jim Elkins rated it it was ok
Shelves: french
This is an excellent illustration of a problem with purely descriptive, unvoiced, "unoriginal" writing: the more it attempts to be "unoriginal" in Marjorie Perloff's sense, the more meaning is infused. Perec's project is to describe the "infraordinary": everything about this square in Paris that is not recorded in the history and tourism books, and, by implication, in novels. He spends a lot of his weekend noting what people are eating or carrying, and he spends a lot of the first day noting whe ...more
Un conto è registrare e salvare dall'oblio ogni minima parte di un determinato luogo (Place Saint Sulpice) e dare visibilità ad elementi che ad un passante distratto sfuggono. Un altro è assecondare la necessità ossessivo compulsiva di registrare quante persone erano sedute o in piedi sull'autobus nr 86 ed ogni altro assurdo dettaglio perché l'autore anela a luoghi immobili e invariabili ed il fatto che non lo possano essere lo costringe ad una continua rendicontazione ed annotazione...
At my computer. Drinking black tea. A light comes from my window, which is partially opened. There is a man on the street. A city looms some miles down the road. And my copy of Attempt is behind me. Perec captures a modicum of time and examines objects and movements of people that come and go, ebbing and flowing through time. Listening to the buses, watching the people with bags of foodstuffs, and children with bonbons, Perec divides time into digestible segments that, with any fork can be taste ...more
Feb 17, 2014 Ümit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: foreign, essay, memoir
Ardı ardına 3 gün boyunca çekilmiş 3 devinimli fotoğraf. Akan hayatın içindeyken bile durup hiçbir şeye karışmadan hayatın bir parçası olmamayı denemek. Varoluşsal bir itiraz gibi.

Ayrıca otobüslerin numaralarından yola çıkarsak, Perec'in aslında Paris St. Sulpice'de değil, İzmir Alsancak'ta olduğu kanaatine varmak mümkün: Bıkmadan sürekli geçip duran 96, 70, 86, 63...
Yilmaz Taha
Mar 10, 2015 Yilmaz Taha rated it really liked it
My first Olippo experience and liked the way Perec describes a totally normal day and all the happenings going on on the streets. It was kind of a refreshing reading for me. Easy, fast but has a lot of interesting details within its easiness.
Apr 25, 2016 Giovanna rated it really liked it
Since returning from a month-long trip, I've been trying to think about ways to keep traveling while at home. It comes down to observing. I think I'll have to put aside some time to make my own attempt at exhausting a place in Portland.
Mar 04, 2014 Michelle rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I read it entirely on the bus to and from work over a few days. A very fitting way to read it. I enjoyed the translator's notes at the end, as well. A delightful project by a great writer.
Sanna Dyker
Jul 06, 2015 Sanna Dyker rated it really liked it
Lovely, simple little book. I love people watching and sitting watching the world go by. This is just like that. Simply takes you right into Paris so you can escape and sit in place of Georges.
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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 about Georges Perec...

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