Wednesday, April 6, 2011

An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris

Georges Perec
An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris
Translated by Marc Lowenthal

Wakefield Press, 2010

In this novella (although it is rather a separate genre under the name "stapled sheets of scratch pad") a French classic Perec, author of the translated books "Things","Life A User’s Manual”, etc., attempts to describe the indescribable. Perec actually is not a writer, he is describer, fixator. During three days in October 1974, the writer sat in cafe and wrote down everything he saw, everything that came within his field of vision.

Perec finds rhythm in emptiness, finds consistency in the daily nature of things, challenging time. Time, by Perec, is not measured for years and minutes, but for buses, boys with a dog, a man in a tie, pies eaten on the go. Perec is aware that it is impossible to fix everything that happens: in a second there are so much microevents that even the human eye can not see everything. Nevertheless, the writer exhausts place. It's funny that the title of the novella consists the word «place», though the book seems to be about time, not a place. But without the space time does not happen, and vice versa.

In the best moments this book is reminiscent of free verse, in the worst - optional clippings from old newspapers.

«A mailman with satchel
Two meter maid-to-orders
Two dogs, brothers, Snowy type
A man in a beret, looks like a priest
A woman in a shawl
A granny with baby carriage
A man in a Russian fur hat (it’s the same one, he’s come back)
A priest in a beret (another one)»

Perec does not write, he describes, but his description of time and space leads to the sad thought: in our life there is actually much more emptiness than we think.

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