Georges Perec: A Life in Words : a Biography

Front Cover

The first complete biography of Georges Perec, novelist, poet, verbal gamesman, master puzzler -- a man at once eccentric, brilliant, and endearingly ordinary, whom Italo Calvino called "so singular a literary personality that he bears absolutely no resemblance to anyone else."
Perec's novels are widely regarded as modern classics, but his linguistic mastery actually extended to a stunning variety of forms: from autobiography, drama, and criticism to crossword puzzles and the world's longest palindrome. Ever in search of new verbal challenges, he wrote one novel entirely without the letter e; and in 1978 he published the monumental, structurally complex Life A User's Manual, which many critics have placed (in the words of The Boston Globe) "on the level of Joyce, Proust, Mann, Kafka, and Nabokov."
In Georges Perec: A Life in Words, David Bellos, Perec's award-winning English translator, introduces the enigmatic figure behind these remarkable works, showing how Perec's experiences led to such masterpieces as Life, the celebrated Things, and the harrowing W or The Memory of Childhood -- the latter inspired by his parents' deaths during World War II (one of them at Aucshwitz) and by his own sense of guilt as a survivor.
Using unpublished documents and firsthand interviews, Bellos details Perec's tragic childhood, his difficult apprenticeship, his emergence into literary renown, and finally his death from cancer at age 46. He traces the influences of Perec's Polish-Jewish background, and of the friendships--with such figures as Calvino, Raymond Queneau, Harry Mathews, and others--that helped shape this extraordinary life. He offers insights, born of many years' reflection and study, into Perec's vertiginous works. He situates the writer as a primary figure of French intellectual life in the 1960s and 1970s, due in part to his collaborations with the radically inventive OuLiPo group (whose name condenses the emblematic phrase "Workshop of Potential Literature"). And Bellos shows the painstaking process by which a phenomenally gifted writer, suffering from a crippling emotional burden, reconstructed his life in the only way he knew how: in words.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jonfaith - LibraryThing

Deserves to sit along the best of Richard Ellmann and Brian Boyd. Magisterial erudition captures Perec"s wonky world. Early in the biography the reader is informed of the myriad puns associated with ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - john1lambert - LibraryThing

Very detailed biography, 802 pages in length, covering 45 or so years of life. Read full review

Contents

19361965
3
Perec and the Persian Gulf
18
Belleville and Passy
27
The Collapse of France
38
VichyAuschwitz
51
VillarddeLans
63
Hôtel Lutetia
81
Rue de lAssomption
88
Perec on Air
373
RadioPerec
386
Writers Block
388
LImagination au Pouvoir
398
Happiness
404
Places of Safety
413
Into Reverse
425
The Constraint of Time
435

Etampes
101
Open Doors
110
Books at Blévy
121
Tilt
131
In
139
Depression
147
Music Art and Good Advice
157
Real Life
168
Parachutist Perec
184
Coherence and Paul Klee
201
The General Line
214
Who Was Gaspard Winckler?
224
Rue de Quatrefages
232
Sfax
240
19751982
247
Perec in the
250
Partisans
268
The Great Adventure
284
Things
298
The Track of Things
304
First Prize
305
19651975
319
Without a Tie
321
Return to Sfax
330
Paradise
334
Rue du Bac
338
OuLiPoanderSaar
344
Perec in Fashion
353
OuLiPosurSeine
359
Forking Paths
364
I Remember
448
Like a Dog
463
A Year in Splinters
475
Avenue de Ségur
501
Rue SimonCrubellier
507
Chapter so On Location
518
Chapter si Esartuniloc
527
MW
538
Rue Linné
556
Catherine
565
A Writers Living
575
The 1976 Prospectus
582
Hiding and Showing
586
A View of the Works
596
Friends and Relations
609
Life A Users Manual
619
Launch into Orbit
636
Working for the Screen
652
The Artist on his Trapeze
662
Perec the Poet
669
Beaux Présents
677
Fiftythree Days in Australia
679
The Murder of Robert Serval
697
Things to Do Before I Die
706
The Works of Georges Perec
717
Index of Perecs Titles 751
719
Index of Names
757
Index of Topics
797
214
800
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Bibliographic information