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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.

A Void
Cover of the English translation of La Disparition
Author Georges Perec
Original title La Disparition
Translator Gilbert Adair
Country France
Language French
Publisher Gallimard (orig.)
The Harvill Press (Eng. trans.)
Publication date
Published in English
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
Pages 290 pp (Eng. trans. Hardcover)
ISBN 0-00-271119-2 (Eng. trans. Hardcover)
OCLC 31434932



It was translated into English by Gilbert Adair, with the title A Void, for which he won the Scott Moncrieff Prize in 1995.[1] Three other unpublished English translations are titled A Vanishing by Ian Monk, Vanish'd! by John Lee, and Omissions by Julian West.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.

Plot summaryEdit

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."

Major themesEdit

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:[2]

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


  • 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. 

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "List of prize winners at the Society of Authors website". Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  2. ^ "Reading Georges Perec". Context. Dalkey Archive Press (11). Retrieved July 28, 2014. 

External linksEdit