The ending scene of this extraordinary book is just as surreal as the 300 pages that precede it: the little mouse that has appeared throughout as a kiThe ending scene of this extraordinary book is just as surreal as the 300 pages that precede it: the little mouse that has appeared throughout as a kind of murine Greek chorus of one decides to commit suicide by cat. It is a testament to the power of the novel that I, for one, cried at that ending.
I started the book with more than a little scepticism because -- well, surrealism --, but within 30 pages I was totally hooked.
I read it in French; there are, I believe, three translations in English. My internet research suggests that the earliest of these, "Froth on the Daydream" by Stanley Chapman, may be preferable, though judging the calibre of literary translation is a tricky game at best. American readers may prefer the more recent translation, "Foam of the Daze", by Brian Harper.
Jazz, the fantastical musical-olfactory invention of the pianocktail, death by water-lily, eels in the plumbing, the central doomed love-story of Colin and Chloé, Colin's friend Chick's fatal obsession with the works of "Jean-Sol Partre" -- heck, one can list the ingredients of this magnificent book without ever coming close to conveying its magic.
You will just have to seek it out for yourself. You won't regret it. trust me....more
You have to make it through the first 50 pages, which are heavy sledding. But then, somehow, it took off (for me, at least).
Which surprised the hellYou have to make it through the first 50 pages, which are heavy sledding. But then, somehow, it took off (for me, at least).
Which surprised the hell out of me, to be honest. Because normally I just can't abide descriptions of furniture, and rooms and stuff -- I tend to skim right over it. Perec spends an inordinate amount of space in describing the furnishings, when he's not making up amusingly wacky lists, or telling another shaggy dog story about some guy getting fleeced or murdered or jilted in some suitably exotic locale.
Then there's the whole Oulipian constraint machinery because, you know, Perec. Apart from a bunch of ruminating about jigsaw puzzles, the big one is that the apartment building is laid out like a 10 x 10 grid, the chapters move around on this grid following a knight's tour trajectory. Then there's some other stuff about matching the constraints to the chapters according to a Graeco-Latin square design, though to be honest it's not clear that those particular constraints add a while lot to the soul of the book.
Because yes, the book most decidedly has a soul. It's not just the kind of sterile, cerebral Oulipian exercise you might be imagining.
Literary references out the wazoo, fun to spot if you enjoy that kind of game. A surprisingly poignant central trio of characters (the jigsaw jokers).
Oh, and quest stories. This book has an inordinate number of quest stories. Mostly they do not end well.
What I'm not managing to convey here is how much fun this book is. Clearly Monsieur Perec was a wicked smart dude. Equally clearly, and more importantly, he was a total mensch....more