Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Void (78th Book)

Dang! Another great book that I am extremely tardy on a review for! Despite being unemployed, I have found it difficult to blog about the books I am reading. This is mostly because I spend the day looking for work, which is harder to do than expected coming from a smaller town to the city. The great thing about being in the city is that this book was actually in at the library when I wanted to read it! I am so used to dealing with the Vancouver Island Public Library where I often had to order books from another branch which would take upwards of two weeks to come in. I am now walking distance to the Vancouver Public Library which is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen:

A Void by Georges Perec is one of the most delightful books I have ever read. It is a 5 star book in a sea of below 3 star duds I have read this past year. A Void is a novel that doesn't have a single E in it. An incredible feat in and of it self, the novel has been translated from the original language. The translator had the triple hard task of translating the novel without "E's" as well! The story is a mystery where the main character Anton Vowl (A clever play with the words A Vowel) suffers from insomnia. He is trying to solve the mystery of something he feels is wrong. This thing (the fact that there are no "e's) lies just beyond his reach. Anton disappears before he has solved this mystery and his friends set out to solve the mystery of his disappearance dying, or disappearing at an alarming rate themselves.

I love mysteries, I love puzzles, and I love things novels that are a task to understand as a reader but brilliant on the part of the author. I am one of the few people that enjoys James Joyce despite the challenge of reading him. This book was tailor made for me and I read through it so fast. I would recommend this novel to everyone and I can't wait to pick up some of Perec's other novels which are also on the list of 1001.

You would think a novel without e's would be difficult to read, but it flew by surprisingly fast. After awhile I stopped noticing the patterning of the words and just enjoyed the story. I did spend the first part reading trying to catch out the author by spotting a stray e somewhere in the novel. I really wish that I hadn't discovered the fact that this book didn't have any e's in it, because I am dying to know if I would have figured the puzzle out on my own. I honestly don't think I would have, because except for a few weird phraseologies such as the use of stylo for pen, the novel flows quite easily. A Void is famous for it's lack of e's however, and it was the description of the book in 1001 Books that drew me to read it. I couldn't have avoided the knowledge even if i hadn't read the description because the novel I picked up from the library had a giant e with a strike through it! 

Having known that there was no e's in the novel I was able to enjoy the author/translator's interpretation of Shakespeare "To be or not to be" and other snippets of writing. There was also several references to 27 things with the 5th being missing. I was also amused by the repetition of the the phrase a void, which is exclaimed several times as the gang of mystery solvers tries to crack the puzzle. I was so amused by the whole book, that I could go on forever, but I would really like everyone to read the book for themselves. 

This is one of the few books that I think would be even better on the second read through because you would pick up even more of the clever plays on words and puzzles than in the first read through. I have very few books that I would say that about, but this is one of them. I am so happy to finally have a review on a book above 3 stars. I was becoming disheartened by my snobbery and dislike or ambivalence of so many of the books that I was reading. If any of you read it I would love to hear your comments on it. 

1 comment:

Joseph said...

Well what do you know. I thought Gadsby was the only book like this. Nice review.