A Void

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 bodily vanishings lurks a vast conundrum of non-inclusion, a puzzling confrontation orbiting around a pivotal lack so mammoth, so voluminous in its span as to thwart plausibility, whilst still so small as to prohibit our noticing it at all.

Still, this sacrificial act, this abdication, this hamstringing is an affliction which it inflicts by will, a pain which it truly wants, and no word said (nor any action) can or should bring a mitigatory balm to this masochistic, if not outright sadistic, mutilation. In a word – this book is an avowal (thank you) that no trick of lingual manipulation is out of bounds for our national patois, nor that of its Gallic originator. In this it triumphs grandly, though that victory occurs at a total cost of simplicity of communication, vigorously slamming shut its highly-wrought doors upon any unlucky digits of cursory curiosity too dozy to pull away. But what bounty awaits stoical inquiry – in particular a work of brilliant rhyming skill, amongst a (now painfully shorn) handful of gracious nods to prior wordsmiths of no small acclaim.

On an opposing, still thumb-sporting hand, it is to an additional cross (born out of admiration, I will admit, but anyway) that I must turn my angry focus upon. On first sight of its striking bindings this book displays its own solitary flaw, imparting a critical hint as to what is at hand; and in all writings on this topic it is as if divulging A Void’s cryptic crux is a vital goal, as if baring its soul without just sanction is to show apt approbation or, put simply, to do it honour. Sadly, to my mind this only subtracts from any summing of its multifariously loquacious parts, and not as its author originally did.

It is, probably, possibly, a foolish wish, an Utopian illusion that such a book as this could both flourish and still maintain its ambiguous shroud; for who could withstand this typographic storm, who would voluntarily swallow such an occasionally sour tasting pill without knowing why, what man or woman is willing to climb so high an obstruction as this, with no conscious motivation for attaining its final summit? How fitting, though, how chivalrous to abstain: to stand back from broadcasting all, from shouting on rooftops, from crowing with abandon; from cutting to, and out, its pounding corazón and draining off its blood; to simply say, “this you should study, ask not why”.

In fact, I cannot bring my own musings to a conclusion in such a way as to risk committing a similarly criminal act on my part. What can I say to sum up my thoughts? Ah, I know – though in choosing my closing words I may unwittingly clarify, not mask. But I shall stop writing now with this, in summary of A Void:

Georges Perec’s exemplary achievement – deliberate elementary absence, ever expressed, never revealed – comprehensively exceeds expectations. However, foreknowledge undermines these endeavours; excessively free reviewers threaten depreciating every newcomer’s revelatory experience. Perec’s perfectly perforated, entirely incomplete, pervasively evasive piece deserves better; mere readers likewise.

Perec A Void


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