A Void

A Void

infobox Book |
name = A Void
title_orig = La Disparition
translator = Gilbert Adair

image_caption = Cover to the English translation of "La Disparition"
author = Georges Perec
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = France
language = French
series =
genre = Novel
publisher = Gallimard (orig.) The Harvill Press (Eng. trans.)
pub_date = 1969
english_pub_date = 1995
media_type = Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
pages = 290 pp (Eng. trans. Hardcover)
isbn = ISBN 0-00-271119-2 (Eng. trans. Hardcover)
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"A Void" (orig. French "La Disparition" (literally, "The Disappearance") is a 300 page French lipogrammatic novel, written in 1969 by Georges Perec, entirely without the letter "e", following Oulipo constraints. Its translation into English by Gilbert Adair is entitled "A Void".


It was translated into English by Gilbert Adair, with the title "A Void", for which he won the Scott Moncrieff Prize in 1995. Another English translation by Ian Monk is titled "A Vanishing". The book has also been translated into German (by Eugen Helmlé as "Anton Voyls Fortgang", 1986), Spanish ("El secuestro", 1997), Turkish (by Cemal Yardımcı as "Kayboluş"), Swedish (by Sture Pyk as "Försvinna", 2000) and Russian (by Valeriy Kislow as "Исчезание" " [Ischezanie] ", 2005).

All translators have imposed upon themselves a similar lipogrammatic constraint to the original, avoiding the most commonly used letter of the alphabet. This precludes the use of words normally considered essential such as "je" ("I") and "le" (masculine "the") in French, and "me" and "the" in English. The Spanish version contains no "a", which is the most commonly used letter in that language.

Plot summary

"A Void"'s plot follows a group of individuals hunting a missing companion, Anton Vowl. It is in part a parody of noir and horror fiction, with many stylistic tricks, gags, plot twists, and a grim conclusion. In many parts it implicitly talks about its own lipogrammatic limitation: of 26 parts, fifth is missing, unusual orthography of 'Vowl', and so on. Individuals within "A Void" do work out what's missing but find discussion of it hazardous, as according to its author's constraint no word containing said lacuna may occur, and any who try risk fatal injury. Philip Howard, writing a lipogrammatic appraisal of A Void in a major British journal, said "This is a story chock-full of plots and sub-plots, of loops within loops, of trails in pursuit of trails, all of which allow its author an opportunity to display his customary virtuosity as an avant-gardist magician, acrobat and clown."

Major themes

Both of Georges Perec's parents perished in World War II, and he was brought up by his aunt and uncle. Warren Motte, writing an article on Perec in the literary magazine "Context", picks up on this and interprets the themes of the book as follows.

:"The absence of a sign is always the sign of an absence, and the absence of the E in "A Void" announces a broader, cannily coded discourse on loss, catastrophe, and mourning. Perec cannot say the words "père" ["father"] , "mère" ["mother"] , "parents" ["parents"] , "famille" ["family"] in his novel, nor can he write the name "Georges Perec". In short, each "void" in the novel is abundantly furnished with meaning, and each points toward the existential void that Perec grappled with throughout his youth and early adulthood. A strange and compelling parable of survival becomes apparent in the novel, too, if one is willing to reflect on the struggles of a Holocaust orphan trying to make sense out of absence, and those of a young writer who has chosen to do without the letter that is the beginning and end of "écriture" ["writing"] ."

In French, the phrase "sans e" ("without e") sounds very much like "sans eux" ("without them"), another encrypted reference to loss.



ee also

* Gadsby, another novel without the letter 'e'.
* Le Train de Nulle Part, a novel without any verbs.

External links

* [http://perso.wanadoo.fr/jb.guinot/pages/GPdispar.html Bibliography of secondary works on "La Disparition"]
* [http://www.centerforbookculture.org/context/no11/Motte.html Warren Motte's article] in the literary magazine "Context"
* [http://www-control.eng.cam.ac.uk/hu/Perec.html Brief excerpt from the Adair translation]
* [http://www.litt-and-co.org/citations_litteraires/20e-cita/l-q_20e/perec_disparition.htm preface in French]
* [http://dannyreviews.com/h/A_Void.html Review by Danny Yee]
* [http://ntvmsnbc.com.tr/news/354039.asp News about the Turkish translation]

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