One of the initial impression on this book is that it is a 'lipogram'. Near 300 page book without the use of letter 'e'. The curiosity did not last long, as the reader seldom feel the absence of the letter in the narrative. However, Perec takes this a step beyond. Creating a void in the narrative technique, takes us through multiple riddles creating the sense of void, the incompleteness , frustration through out the book. Shear skills in writing and mastery over the use of language, from the writer whose "Life - A User's Manual' , which is considered a master piece in the literary circle.
Anton Vowls goes missing from his flat during a turbulent 1968 in Paris. There seems to be some disturbances in his life before his disappearance. His friends and acquaintances, search ( or ransack) his apartment to get any clue leading to his disappearance. All he left there was few pages of cryptic writing in the form of a diary. Vowl's interest in wordplay, or lipograms, evidently leave others to fill in what is cleverly left , or unsaid. His friends work through this puzzles and start their investigations, adding to further twists and turns to the plot. Every puzzle worked out reveal more of them. As the game progresses, most of they too disappear ( or die ) mysteriously, creating further chaos and confusion. Who will remain is the question being asked as the participants gather in an old mansion, speculating ( through their long speeches and story telling), building new connections and relations among them, through these multi-generation narrative, in progress leaving one after the other perish.
The book is full of plots and sub plots, some of them are phenomenally brilliant. People on trail and on pursuit. The definitions and equation changes constantly. One void closed opens up many more. As a reader, you experience the same sense of void in the narrative. There are missing links, elements of creative uncertainty , the clever manipulation of the theme.
The book is a triumph of literary prowess. A mastery in writing by a gifted writer. Gilber Adair ( himself a reputed writer) brings out a brilliant translation befitting the original theme and structure. While it is too difficult to grasp being a tough read, one can not stop admiring the clever writing. The regular use of literary allusion ( Moby Dick in the initial parts) and various other references to writers and books can be found through out the book. In the Post script, Perec says, "My ambition, as Author, my point, I would go so far as to say my fixation, my constant fixation, was primarily to concoct an artifact as original as it was illuminating, as artifact that would, or just possibly might, ast as a stimulant on notions of construction, of narration, of plotting, of action, a stimulant, in a word, on fiction-writing today."
It's an uneasy read, and often leave you puzzled and confused. A narration you never seems to be in grasp. However, it is an interesting book, despite the absence of an important letter E.---------------------------
A Void (1969 )
Georges Perec ( translated from French by Gilbert Adair 1994)
Wiki Entry , Postmodern Mystery,