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A Void  
Cover of the English translation of La Disparition
Author Georges Perec
Original title La Disparition
Translator Gilbert Adair
Country France
Language French
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher Gallimard (orig.)
The Harvill Press (Eng. trans.)
Publication date 1969
Published in
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
Pages 290 pp (Eng. trans. Hardcover)
ISBN ISBN 0-00-271119-2 (Eng. trans. Hardcover)
OCLC Number 31434932

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.



It was translated into English by Gilbert Adair, with the title A Void, for which he won the Scott Moncrieff Prize in 1995. Two other unpublished English translations are titled A Vanishing by Ian Monk and Vanish'd! by John Lee. The book has also been translated into German (by Eugen Helmlé as Anton Voyls Fortgang, 1986), Spanish (El secuestro, 1997), Turkish (by Cemal Yardımcı as Kayboluş), Swedish (by Sture Pyk as Försvinna, 2000), Russian (by Valeriy Kislow as Исчезание [Ischezanie], 2005) and Dutch (by Guido van de Wiel as 't Manco, 2009).

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") 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 that language.

Plot summary

A Void's plot follows a group of individuals hunting 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. In many parts it implicitly talks about its own lipogrammatic limitation; 'Vowl' highlights its unusual orthography. Individuals within A Void do work out what's missing but find discussion of it hazardous, as according to its author's constraint no word containing it may occur, and any who try risk fatal injury. Philip Howard, writing a lipogrammatic appraisal of A Void in The Times, 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 themes

Both of Georges Perec's parents perished in World War II, and he was brought up by his aunt and uncle. Warren Motte, writing an article on Perec in the literary magazine Context, picks up on this and interprets the themes of the book as follows.

"The absence of a sign is always the sign of an absence, and the absence of the E in A Void announces a broader, cannily coded discourse on loss, catastrophe, and mourning. Perec cannot say the words père ["father"], mère ["mother"], parents ["parents"], famille ["family"] in his novel, nor can he write the name Georges Perec. In short, each "void" in the novel is abundantly furnished with meaning, and each points toward the existential void that Perec grappled with throughout his youth and early adulthood. A strange and compelling parable of survival becomes apparent in the novel, too, if one is willing to reflect on the struggles of a Holocaust orphan trying to make sense out of absence, and those of a young writer who has chosen to do without the letter that is the beginning and end of écriture ["writing"]."

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


  • Georges Perec (1969). La disparition. Gallimard. ISBN 2-07-071523-X. 
  • Georges Perec, Gilbert Adair (translator) (1994). A Void. The Harvill Press. ISBN 1-86046-098-4 (hardback ISBN 0-00-271119-2). 
  • Georges Perec, Eugen Helmlé (translator). Anton Voyls Fortgang. ISBN 3-499-12857-8. 
  • Georges Perec, Guido van de Wiel (translator) (2009). 't Manco. De Arbeiderspers. ISBN 978-90-295-6766-4. 

See also

External links



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