A Void  

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La Disparition (1969) is a novel by Georges Perec. The title is French for The Disappearance. It was translated to English as A Void. It is a 300-page French lipogrammatic novel, written entirely without using the letter e (except for the author's name), following Oulipo constraints.



It was translated into English by Gilbert Adair, with the title A Void, for which he won the Scott Moncrieff Prize in 1995. Three other unpublished English translations are titled A Vanishing by Ian Monk, Vanish'd! by John Lee, and Omissions by Julian West.

The book has also been translated into German (by Eugen Helmlé as Anton Voyls Fortgang, 1986), Italian (by Piero Falchetta as La scomparsa, 1995), Spanish (El secuestro, 1997), Swedish (by Sture Pyk as Försvinna, 2000), Russian (by Valeriy Kislow as Исчезание [Ischezanie], 2005), Turkish (by Cemal Yardımcı as Kayboluş, 2006), Dutch (by Guido van de Wiel as 't Manco, 2009), Romanian (Serban Foarta as Disparitia, editura Art, 2010) and Japanese (by Shuichirou Shiozuka as Emmetsu(煙滅), 2010).

All translators have imposed upon themselves a similar lipogrammatic constraint to the original, avoiding the most commonly used letter of the alphabet. This precludes the use of words normally considered essential such as je ("I") and le (masculine "the") in French, and "me" and "the" in English. The Spanish version contains no a, which is the second most commonly used letter in the language (first is "e").

Plot summary

A Void's plot follows a group of humans looking for a missing companion, Anton Vowl. It is in part a parody of noir and horror fiction, with many stylistic tricks, gags, plot twists, and a grim conclusion. On many occasions it implicitly talks about its own lipogrammatic limitation, highlighting its unusual orthography. By and by, protagonists within A Void work out which symbol is missing, but find it a hazardous topic to discuss, as any who try to bypass this story's constraint risk fatal injury. Philip Howard, writing a lipogrammatic appraisal of A Void in his column, said "This is a story chock-full of plots and sub-plots, of loops within loops, of trails in pursuit of trails, all of which allow its author an opportunity to display his customary virtuosity as an avant-gardist magician, acrobat and clown."

Major themes

Both of Georges Perec's parents perished in World War II, and he was brought up by his aunt and uncle. Warren Motte, writing an article on Perec in the literary magazine Context, picks up on this and interprets the themes of the book as follows.

The absence of a sign is always the sign of an absence, and the absence of the E in A Void announces a broader, cannily coded discourse on loss, catastrophe, and mourning. Perec cannot say the words père ["father"], mère ["mother"], parents ["parents"], famille ["family"] in his novel, nor can he write the name Georges Perec. In short, each "void" in the novel is abundantly furnished with meaning, and each points toward the existential void that Perec grappled with throughout his youth and early adulthood. A strange and compelling parable of survival becomes apparent in the novel, too, if one is willing to reflect on the struggles of a Holocaust orphan trying to make sense out of absence, and those of a young writer who has chosen to do without the letter that is the beginning and end of écriture ["writing"].

In French, the phrase "sans e" ("without e") sounds very much like "sans eux" ("without them"), another encrypted reference to loss.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "A Void" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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