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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "E's are good" ...?, 14 Nov 2008
This review is from: A Void (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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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good., 23 Oct 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: A Void (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Georges Perec - A Void, 12 Nov 2008
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A Void (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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome !, 2 Sep 2008
By 
This review is from: A Void (Paperback)
I read this book years ago, after it was mentioned in an editorial of a magazine I was reading. Totally intregued, I went straight out and bought it. Read it. Marvelled at it.
Perec has become one of my favourite authors since.
And to make it all the more perfect - he then wrote Three - a short story where the only vowel is E !! He had to use them up!
Read it - if only to be suitably awed.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The plot twists are as unusual as the writing style, 23 Aug 2001
This review is from: A Void (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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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This you should study, ask not why, 7 Nov 2008
This review is from: A Void (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. 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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars If you don't stop that you'll go blind, 21 May 2010
This review is from: A Void (Paperback)
A giant novel about absence, invisibility and that old chestnut the (E)lephant in the room. Hugely ambitious and very much an Achievement, the book demands a lot from its reader on the way to its cumulative rewards. If you're prepared to indulge the book, it will indulge you right back. People who've waddled all the way to the end of the book frequently feel superior to people who haven't ("Really? You don't know what a lipogram is?") and like to bask in that small onanistic pleasure. But there's more to the book than an exercise in sophomoric cleverness. Far more. Let it surprise you. Then try to imagine the mind of the man who wrote it (and the mind of the man who translated it into English, too, for that matter).
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This you should study, ask not why, 7 Nov 2008
This review is from: A Void (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. 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.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amusing floccinaucinihilipilification, 14 Aug 2008
By 
JAMES MACKAY (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Void (Paperback)
Random thoughts on first coming into contact with this book:
1. Which imp is disposing of a particular mark throughout this folio?
2. What can such disposal do to this unassuming appraisal?
3. Which man, following an author in disposing of Anton Vowl, slipping a hint as to whodunnit in virtually all this book's paragraphs, would put his sign to such a work of translation? Gilb Adair? A triumph.

Which should work by way of illustration, amplifying your grasp of this paradox of a voluminous pratting about - a book, a fantasy of aristocracy and policing, which our author (originally GP, not GA) took a contract to construct without using a particular - shall I say - mark? 5 stars, nay, an infinity of stars for such a victory against customary linguistics!
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A Void
A Void by Georges Perec (Paperback - 3 Jan 2008)
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