Today we honor Literary Man Georges Perec, French novelist, filmmaker, and essayist. Perec’s masterpiece, LIFE: A USER’S MANUAL or LA VIE MODE D’EMPLO, was published in 1978 and brought him critical success. This book, combined with his previous successes won him the Prix Médicis, a prominent French literary award which honors an author whose “fame does not yet match his talent.”

Georges Perec, b. 1936 d. 1982

In his short life of 45 years, Perec published extraordinary works. In addition to LIFE: A USERS MANUAL, he also published A VOID, or LA DISPARITION, in which the entire novel is written without the letter “e.” The novel was translated by Gilbert Adair, who through his own genius, managed to stay true to Perec’s vision by leaving out the letter “e” in the English translation. Perec’s body of work is a dizzying feat, and his books are dense and experimental. To get a feel for Perec without investing too much, we suggest that you begin with AN ATTEMPT AT EXHAUSTING A PLACE IN PARIS. This essay explores the comings and goings of an intersection in Paris, the Place Saint-Sulpice. Perec sits in cafes for three days recording what he sees: the minute daily activities of people, automobiles, and animals. This short piece of 55 pages transports the reader to this little Parisian corner, to be interested in the dog as it is given his morning walk, the child who is late for school, and the man as he lights his cigarette. It is a beautiful and haunting document created with a desire to find out, as he said, “what happens when nothing happens.”