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Georges Perec. Three by Perec.

Georges Perec. Three by Perec. Trans. Ian Monk. Intro. David Bellos. David R. Godine, 2004. 192 pp. Paper: $16.95.

Godine has done us all a service by making this gem of a collection available domestically under the umbrella of their attractive Verba Mundi series, and moreover as part of a long-overdue push to bring all of Perec's book-length works in English translation back into print. We are in very good hands indeed, as Three comes to us courtesy of Oulipian Ian Monk and regular saint of Pereciana David Bellos--the former a poet and translator, the latter Perec's biographer and himself the heroic translator of Life A User's Manual. Bellos's short introductions put each of the three novellas collected here into context within the Perec oeuvre, while Monk's translations are as ever gorgeous and eloquent, tackling the restlessly playful French without the least sign of strain. (As wonderful as Gilbert Adair's translation of the E-less A Void is, it's hard to deny that he "sweats a little.") The first novella, Which Moped with Chrome-Plated Handlebars at the Back of the Yard?, written before Perec joined the Oulipo, tells the grim story of a group of Parisians trying to keep a friend doing his military service from being sent to the Algerian front, but in a rollicking comic voice, incorporating as many absurdly fustian rhetorical styles as the text can take (with a mocking partial index of these included at the end). The second, The Exeter Text: Jewels, Secrets, Sex, is a salacious Sadean entertainment--resembling at times the distorted "pornography" in Harry Mathews's Tlooth--that uses only one vowel: purporting to gather up the Es that Perec avoided in A Void. The last and arguably best of the trilogy is A Gallery Portrait, which recalls the deadpan "academic" narration of the author's Le Voyage d'hiver, telling a story of art-world intrigue through a collection of quotations and succulent minutiae. Curious readers who want to test the waters couldn't find a better introduction to the wealth and charm of Perec's universe. Initiates, I hope, will need no encouragement. [Jeremy M. Davies]
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Author:Davies, Jeremy M.
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 2005
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