Georges Perec by David Bellos
A Life in Words : A Biography

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Synopsis

"It's hard to see how anyone is ever going to better this User's Manual to the life of Georges Perec" - Gilbert Adair, Sunday Times



Winner of the Prix Goncourt for Biography, 1994



George Perec (1936-82) was one of the most significant European writers of the twentieth century and undoubtedly the most versatile and innovative writer of his generation.



David Bellos's comprehensive biography - which also provides the first full survey of Perec's irreverent, polymathic oeuvre - explores the life of an anguished, comical and endearingly modest man, who worked quietly as an archivist in a medical research library. The French son of Jewish immigrants from Poland, he remained haunted all of his life by his father's death in the war, fighting to defend France, and his mother's in Auschwitz-Birkenau. His acclaimed novel A Void (1969) - written without using the letter "e" - has been seen as an attempt to escape from the words "père", "mere", and even "George Perec".



His career made an auspicious start with Things: A Story of the Sixties (1965), which won the Prix Renaudot. He then pursued an idiosyncratic and ambitious literary itinerary through the intellectual ferment of Paris in the 1960s and 1970s.He belonged to the Ouvrior de Littérature Potentielle (OuLiPo), a radically inventive group of writers whose members included Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino. Perec achieved international celebrity with Life A User's Manual (1978), which won the Prix Medicis and was voted Novel of the Decade by the Salon du Livre. He died in his mid-forties after a short illness, leaving a truly puzzling detective novel, 53 Days, incomplete.



"Professor Bellos's book enables us at once to relish the most wilfully bizarre aspects of Perec's oeuvre and to understand the whys and wherefores of his protean nature" - Jonathan Romney, Literary Review

 

About David Bellos

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David Bellos is a professor of French and Comparative Literature at Princeton where he is also director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication. He won the Prix Goncourt de la Biographie for George Perec: A Life in Words. He also won the IBM-France prize for his translated W or The Memory of Childhood, Things: A Story of the Sixties and 53 Days, all major works by George Perec. In 2005 he won the Man Booker International translator's award for his translations of several works by the Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare.
 
Published November 30, 2010 by Vintage Digital. 832 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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The search for missing mystery writer Robert Serval, conducted by this story’s narrator, a teacher “studying” Serval’s uncompleted manuscript The Crypt, rapidly escalates into a voyage to remote (imaginary) territory and a series of droll parodies of literary ancestors (Agatha Christie is a promi...

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Publishers Weekly

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Two intriguing and poignant novellas, Perec's first published works, show him forging the iconoclastic literary style that fully emerges in his magisterial Life: A User's Manual --the technique of crowding fictional space with an almost rococo wealth of detail and decor.

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The Independent

Perec's paternal grandparents were Polish Jews.

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London Review of Books

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London Review of Books

each of its 16 sections of 11 poems is written using only the ten most frequent letters – that is, a, e, i, l, n, o, r, s, t, u – plus one variable letter.

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London Review of Books

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Project MUSE

Such readers represent a small subset of the actual student readers of Perec's work, which is more frequently to be found on reading lists in anthropology, architecture and sociology than in French literature, and an even smaller subset of Perec's English-language fans, who are more likely to be ...

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Project MUSE

The result is to show, in ways that have long been imagined but never clearly demonstrated before, the intellectual coherence and unity of Perec's literary career, from Les Choses to '53 jours', and to show also that the imponderability of causation in human life —the ultimate reversibility of ...

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Project MUSE

Georges Perec's father, Izie, died a soldier in a field hospital on June 16, 1940, the very last day of fighting before the French army caved in to the Germans.

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