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A Void, translated from the original French La Disparition (literally, "The Disappearance"), is a 300-page French lipogrammatic novel, written in 1969 by Georges Perec, entirely without using the letter e (except for the author's name), following Oulipo constraints.
Cover of the English translation of La Disparition
|Original title||La Disparition|
The Harvill Press (Eng. trans.)
Published in English
|Media type||Print (Hardcover, Paperback)|
|Pages||290 pp (Eng. trans. Hardcover)|
|ISBN||0-00-271119-2 (Eng. trans. Hardcover)|
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 Three other unpublished English translations are titled A Vanishing by Ian Monk, Vanish'd! by John Lee, and Omissions by Julian West.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 (by Hermès Salceda as 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), Japanese (by Shuichirou Shiotsuka as 煙滅 [Emmetsu], 2010) Croatian (by Vanda Mikšić as Ispario, 2012), and Catalan (by Adrià Pujol Cruells as L'eclipsi, 2017).
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"), et ("and") and le (masculine "the") in French, and "me" and "the" in English. The Spanish version contains no a, which is the most commonly used letter in the Spanish language ("e" being second), while the Russian version contains no о.
A Void's plot follows a group of individuals 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 syntax. 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 dying. Philip Howard, writing a lipogrammatic appraisal of A Void in his column Lost Words, 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."
Both of Georges Perec's parents perished in World War II, his father as a soldier and his mother in the Holocaust. He was brought up by his aunt and uncle after surviving the war. Warren Motte interprets the absence of the letter E in the book as a metaphor for Perec's own sense of loss and incompleteness:
|“||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"].||”|
A German text that is related to this is The Plight of Gary Leonard, in which the main character's name is manipulated by the government with the removal of the "e". The rest of the book past this point makes a nod to this work, by explicitly avoiding ever using the letter "e" in context of the main character. Many parallels can be drawn between the two works and it can be thought of as a modern spiritual successor.
In French, the phrase "sans e" ("without e") sounds very much like "sans eux" ("without them"), another encrypted reference to loss.
- Georges Perec (1969). La disparition. Gallimard. ISBN 2-07-071523-X.
- Georges Perec, Gilbert Adair (translator) (1994). A Void (paperback). The Harvill Press. ISBN 1-86046-098-4.
- Georges Perec, Gilbert Adair (translator) (1994). A Void (hardcover). The Harvill Press. ISBN 0-00-271119-2.
- Georges Perec, Eugen Helmlé (translator). Anton Voyls Fortgang. ISBN 3-499-12857-8.
- Georges Perec, Cemal Yardımcı (translator). Kayboluş. ISBN 978-975-539-472-5.
- Georges Perec, Guido van de Wiel (translator) (2009). 't Manco. De Arbeiderspers. ISBN 978-90-295-6766-4.
- Georges Perec (1997). El secuestro. Anagrama. ISBN 978-84-339-0836-0.
- Georges Perec, Valéry Kislov (translator), Istchezanie, Ivan Limbakh publisher, 2004, ISBN 5-89059-060-X
- Georges Perec, Gilbert Adair (translator) (2005). A Void (paperback). David R. Godine, Publisher. ISBN 978-1-56792-296-7.
- "List of prize winners at the Society of Authors website". Retrieved 4 August 2012.
- "Reading Georges Perec". Context. Dalkey Archive Press (11). Retrieved July 28, 2014.
- Bibliography of secondary works on La Disparition.
- Brief excerpt from the Adair translation.
- preface in French.
- Review by Danny Yee.
- News about the Turkish translation.
- https://web.archive.org/web/20130124122327/http://magazines.russ.ru/nlo/2010/106/ about translation in Russian.
- Collection of book covers for translations of La Disparition.