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W or the Memory of Childhood

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,488 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
Written in alternating chapters, W or the Memory of Childhood, tells two parallel tales, in two parts. One is a story created in childhood and about childhood. The other story is about two people called Gaspard Winckler: one an eight-year-old deaf-mute lost in a shipwreck, the other a man despatched to search for him, who discovers W, an island state based on the rules of ...more
Paperback, 164 pages
Published March 3rd 2011 by Vintage Classics (first published 1975)
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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
MJ Nicholls
Apr 17, 2015 MJ Nicholls rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 27, 2015 Geoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Adam Floridia
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
Jeff Jackson
Aug 10, 2012 Jeff Jackson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Aug 27, 2011 Lee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 22, 2012 Sam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 18, 2012 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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 18, 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.
Dec 16, 2015 E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 12, 2013 Sam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 29, 2014 Valerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: roman, poesie
Deux récit alternent, l'un est la description précise des rares souvenirs d'enfance de Georges Perec, l'autre est le fonctionnement d'une île olympique, l'île de W où le sport est tout. J'avoue que si le travail de reconstitution de la mémoire de Perec m'a passionnée, que je me suis un peu ennuyée devant son ile olympique d'autant qu'au début elle était plutôt décrite comme une utopie, même si pour moi, qui n'aime pas beaucoup le sport, une île où il y aurait tout le temps des jeux olympiques se ...more
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.
Jul 09, 2016 Tadeusz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A slight piece which alternates an autobiography with an imaginative piece about a Patagonian colony.

There are parts of the biography which are affecting. There are parts of the colony which are unpleasant. But on the whole the descriptions and memories in the book are described in such a way as to convey little atmosphere, though there are occasionally amusing digressions into Perec's mental processes. The sports colony details become bogged down in statistics and can be tiresome. Overall. the
Feb 05, 2015 Kaycie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001_read
I almost feel ridiculous giving this book only 4 really is a 9/10 for me. Its just that on a first-read its one star short because the awesomeness of this book doesn't hit you until the last few pages of the read (and I was a bit confused for awhile), so a re-read is definitely necessary!

On marinating further after finishing...(view spoiler)
Katie Grainger
Sep 13, 2014 Katie Grainger rated it liked it
W or The Memory of Childhood is two parallel stories, one is the story of an island W, which is a dictatorship based on sport and a warped Olympic ideal. The second story is the autobiographical account of George's Perec's early life, in which we learn how he spent the years of the Second World War during the height of Nazi power.

This book is powerful because you realise quite early on the W is in fact a form of Concentration Camp, it is a grotesque parody of what happened to Jews across Europe
Apr 07, 2016 M. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Bir kez daha, saklambaç oynayan ve en çok korktuğu ya da arzu ettiği şeyin ne olduğunu -saklanmış olarak kalmak mı, bulunmak mı?- bilmeyen bir çocuk gibiydim." (s.13)
Mar 04, 2016 ehk2 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's not just related to this text, but when I read Perec, I find myself imagining and wishing somebody build a hypertext universe of Perec on internet: interactive maps, street views, plans, linked old and new photos of locations, buildings, sceneries, monuments, other objects and references Perec mentions in his texts & movies -like, An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, W, A Void, Life: A User's Manual and all others -and not just Paris but all places he lived.
That would be great and
Nicolás Rivas
De alguna frase de Bolaño que hoy no puedo encontrar obtuve la imagen de un triste niño Perec. Ahora cada vez que alguien me habla de una infancia negra, o me pongo a pensar en las melancolías de mi propia niñez, flota en mi mente el nombre Perec. Nada más que por ese recuerdo compré este libro, esperando ampliar ese extraño punto fijo mental. No creo haberlo logrado. El libro es anecdótico, para coleccionistas, para el que quiere leer todo lo que escribió el autor. A una ridícula utopía, que ti ...more
Nov 16, 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
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  • Enfance
  • Georges Perec: A Life in Words
  • Witch Grass
  • The Vice Consul (Pantheon Modern Writers Original)
  • L'Abbé C
  • The Ogre
  • Arcanum 17
  • Under Fire
  • Jealousy
  • The Devil in the Flesh
  • Autoportrait
  • A Balcony in the Forest
  • Oulipo Compendium
  • La Modification
  • Aurélien
  • Strait is the Gate (La Porte Etroite)
  • 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...

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