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A Void Paperback – 3 Oct 1994


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The Harvill Press; New edition edition (3 Oct. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860460984
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860460982
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,374,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"A true tour de force: a full-length novel containing not a single 'E'. An entertaining post-modern detective story...dazzling... the translator's dazzling recreation conveys the author's near magical cleverness while preserving an underlying seriousness that makes this book much more than a curiosity" (New Yorker)

"Adair's translation is an astounding Anglicisation of Francophonic mania, a daunting triumph of will pushing its way through imposing roadblocks to a magical country, an absurdist nirvana, of humour, pathos and loss" (Time) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

'There is not a single E in this novel. That's right: no here, there, where, when; no yes, no love, no sex!' New York Times Book Review --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Kenneth W. Douglas on 14 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
Okay, the temptation here is to write a lipogrammatical review, but to be honest - much as I enjoyed the examples below - there is probably a need for a few "straight" reviews as well, to let everyone know what an extraordinary book this is.

A novel of more than 300 pages without the letter "E" is already impressive just as an intellectual feat, in sheer Guinness-book-of-records, well-fancy-that terms. It's hard enough in French, but arguably even harder in English, so full marks to Gilbert Adair for his black-belt skills in translation. (Think about it a moment: no "the"; no "he", "she", "we" or "they".)

However, while this is always a witty book and occasionally an overtly funny one (Perec's E-free translations of Hamlet's soliloquy and Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" are hilarious), this is a serious book, full of Perec's usual combination of gentle melancholy with serious philosophical questions.

Anton Vowl and his chums, representing the six vowels (with "Y" included) and disappearing one by one in bizarre and mysterious circumstances, know something is missing from their lives but can't figure what; indeed generally fail to make sense of their world. What does the missing "e" represent? What is our own missing "e"?

And isn't it scary how quickly, reading this book, we get used to the absence of something as commonplace as the most frequently used letter in the alphabet? (A possible metaphor for Europe after the Holocaust, or the like?)

Like all Perec, "A Void" is serious fun, but ultimately decidedly unsettling. He certainly makes you appreciate the simple things in life. Eeeeeeeeeeeeee!
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Oct. 2001
Format: Paperback
This is an ambitious book by anybody's standards. A brilliant translation by Adair - not that I know any Francais - but obviously a major task to accomplish without using that particular symbol and still maintain a lyrical flow throughout. It has a fantastical plot, as if from a Salvador Dali painting, but this story's main conundrum (viz. what is missing) is told to us prior to starting - which spoils it slightly. My only additional criticism is that it is difficult to follow at points and occasionally hard going.
Still, indubitably worth four stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By RachelWalker TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
Remarkable! Though it is a more an intellectual exercise than an intelligible work of fiction (though, of course it *is* an intelligible work of fiction, otherwise the exercise would render itself pointless), a Void is delightful and delightfully clever experience. It strains credibility, credulity, and sometimes, through its oft-necessarily torturous syntax and plotting that internally reflects the conceit of a novel written with a vital piece missing, though concomitant then with an inability to mention it, but it's still fun throughout, often hilarious, and a very rewarding book to have read. Philosophical, full of big plots and little, it's a difficult read but a worthwhile one. Oh yes!
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Andrew on 7 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
This significant book, who's 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.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By zeroc@deadroads.fsnet.co.uk on 23 Aug. 2001
Format: Paperback
As a group of aquaintances try to discover the truth behind the dissapearance of their mutual friend they uncover a plot worthy of any detective novel. The style of writing takes on an edge of poetry at times, this can be difficult to follow but still manages to hold the readers interest and certainly adds a dark quality to the affair. Having not read any of Perec's other work I found it hard to tell if the author was held back by his choice not to use the letter "e", it would be interesting to give the book to somebody without telling them and see if they noticed the absence of the enlish languages most common letter. I won't pretend to understand exactly what Perec was trying to say in this novel but I found some interesting social and sociological points raised in the book and it is obviouse that this novel has a depth beyond that of the plot. A challenging read well worth taking the time to ponder over.
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