A Void

The year is 1968, and as France is torn apart by social and political anarchy, the noted eccentric and insomniac Anton Vowl goes missing. Ransacking his Paris flat, his best friends scour his diary for clues to his whereabouts. At first glance these pages reveal nothing but Vowl’s penchant for word games, especially for “lipograms,” compositions in which the use of a particular letter is suppressed. But as the friends work out Vowl’s verbal puzzles, and as they investigate various leads discovered among the entries, they too disappear, one by one by one, and under the most mysterious circumstances . . .

A Void is a metaphysical whodunit, a story chock-full of plots and subplots, of trails in pursuit of trails, all of which afford Perec occasion to display his virtuosity as a verbal magician, acrobat, and sad-eyed clown. It is also an outrageous verbal stunt: a 300-page novel that never once employs the letter E. Adair’s translation, too, is astounding; Time called it “a daunting triumph of will pushing its way through imposing roadblocks to a magical country, an absurdist nirvana of humor, pathos, and loss.”

I once had the occasion to write to the translator of these books, David Bellos, and I took the opportunity to let him know that Perec is my favorite writer, and that, since a translator is to a large extent the creative force behind a translated work, he, David Bellos, is also, in a palpable way, my favorite writer. Few writers have opened up the possibilities of literary art with as much enthusiasm, mastery, and pleasure as Perec.
Martin Riker, Associate Director of the Dalkey Archive Press

Georges Perec (March 7, 1936 in Paris–March 3, 1982 in Ivry-sur-Seine) was a French novelist, filmmaker, documentalist, and essayist. He was a member of the Oulipo group. His father died as a soldier early in the Second World War and his mother was killed in the Holocaust, and many of his works deal with absence, loss, and identity, often through word play.

Gilbert Adair was a Scottish novelist, poet, film critic and journalist. He was critically most famous for the “fiendish” translation of Georges Perec‘s postmodern novel A Void, in which the letter e is not used.