Books: Jigsaws Life: a User's Manual

by Georges Perec Translated by David Bellos Godine; 581 pages; $24.95

Outside his native France, Novelist Georges Perec (1936-82) was known chiefly as a member of OuLiPo, an acronym for Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle (Workshop of Potential Literature). The authors and scientists who constituted this informal group had a common goal: the discovery of new or fiendishly difficult and complex ways of arranging words in sequence. When it came to setting Procrustean rules and then writing freely in spite of them, none of the OuLiPo circle was more inventive and whimsical than Perec. He composed a full-length novel, La Disparition, without once using the letter e. He devised a 5,000-letter statement that...

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