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Perec, G. (Penguin Edition 1997 First published 1974) Species of Spaces and other Pieces
Penguin Classics ISBN 978 0 141 44224-2

Georges Perec was a remarkable, virtuoso writer. The author of the highly acclaimed Life: A User’s Manual Perec was a polymath, a novelist, filmmaker, documentalist and essayist. He was a member of the Oulipo group. Many of his works deal with absence, loss, and identity, often through word play.

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His literary output was deliberately varied in form and style and this book, in the Penguin Classics series, the first to appear in English, opens the door to Perec’s non-fictional work and demonstrates his characteristic lightness of touch, wry humour and accessibility. In it he contemplates the many ways in which we occupy the space around us, depicting the commonplace items with startling, engrossing, parred-back intensity.

The passage of time (my History) leaves behind a residue that accumulates: photographs, drawings, the corpses of long since dried-up felt pens, shirts, non-returnable glasses and returnable glasses, cigar wrappers, tins, erasers, postcards, books, dust and knickknacks: this is what I call my fortune.

Species of Spaces, p25

Make an effort to exhaust the subject, even if that seems grotesque, or pointless, or stupid. You still haven’t looked at anything, you’ve merely picked out what you’ve long ago picked out. Force yourself to see more flatly.

Species of Spaces, p50

He was obsessed with mapping movements and spaces otherwise taken for granted and infusing mundane objects with meaning and detail.

Perec’s writing was language as celebration; language as game; language as play. Perec was a wonderful writer and his relationship with words, their meaning, and even their appearance on the page, was unique.

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If you want a plot, or if you want a cohesive argument, then Perec perhaps won’t be for you, but if you want beautifully rendered belles-lettres about everything and nothing, if you want access into a firework mind crammed with ideas then this book will be a dip-in delight – spatial meditations, lists, word games, short essays, stories, phrases, thoughts, experiments and all manner of other odds-&-ends – through which Perec’s engaging personality shines forth.

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At age 45, just a year before his death from lung cancer, he told an interviewer how books by authors he loved were like pieces of the puzzle but that there were still spaces between the pieces and those were the spaces in which he could write.

He went on to say how he would like to write everything in every way possible, including children’s books, science fiction, detective novels, cartoons, comedy, drama and film scripts. He also said that at the end of his life he would like to have used all the words in the dictionary and create some of his own words. One can only imagine the many books Georges Perec would have written had he lived into old age.

You must set about it more slowly, almost stupidly. Force yourself to write down what is of no interest, what is most obvious, most common, most colourless.

Species of Spaces, p50

My spaces are fragile: time is going to wear them away, to destroy them. Nothing will any longer resemble what was, my memories will betray me, oblivion will infiltrate my memory, I shall look at a few old yellowing photographs with broken edges without recognising them.

Species of Spaces, p91

Space melts like sand running through one’s fingers. Time bears it away and leaves me only shapeless shreds:
To write: to try to meticulously to retain something, to cause something to survive; to wrest a few precise scraps from the void as it goes, to leave somewhere a furrow, a trace, a mark or a few signs.

Species of Space, p92

George Perec was an incredible experimental writer. He was also very funny and playful. Georges Perec died much too young.

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