16 October 2008

Georges Perec's La Disparition (1969; trans. Adair as A Void, 1994)

A Sort of Parody

This is an odd book with a missing mark, a loss shouting loudly about its own lack, a howl of an orphan child, full of many words from many lands, along with slang words and gros mots, in short a hotchpotch of lingos fighting it out, so many words with so many strings of consonants all looking for this unknown thing.

To a lot of us it is possibly a tad mad, but Mr P. is in control of his work, showing us a vast array of humans, guiding us around his story – whilst avoiding a profusion of pitfalls – with circumlocutory facility.

On many occasions I thought that this book was slightly sagging, that it ran risks of imploding into its own loss; a vital thing is missing, an important 1 in a row of 26: fifth along, that is to say.

ADDENDUM: Well, I wrote this some time ago, before I'd read Ian Monk's criticisms of this translation, and I certainly wouldn't be writing a praise of it now. There were a number of things Adair missed in Perec's book, and I'm not talking about all the 'e's. He missed a common French pangram, for instance, and consequently made a complete hash of this sentence. In fact, the translation is something of a mess itself.

No comments: