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Customer Review

on 14 November 2008
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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