A strange novel

« Anton Voyl n’arrivait pas à dormir. Il alluma. Son Jaz marquait minuit vingt. Il poussa un profond soupir, s’assit dans son lit, s’appuyant sur son polochon. Il prit un roman, il l’ouvrit, il lut; mais il n’y saisissait qu’un imbroglio confus, il butait à tout instant sur un mot dont il ignorait la signification.
Il abandonna son roman sur son lit. Il alla à son lavabo; il mouilla un gant qu’il passa sur son front, sur son cou. »

What do you notice in this text (for those of you who do not know it)? I’ll give you a clue – it comes from a novel called « la disparition ». And indeed, the novel is about the disappearance of the main character, Anton Voyl, but it is also about a more subtle disappearance: that of the letter « e ». And when one realizes that the letter « e » is the most frequently used in the French language, one understands that this novel is a literary feat. Personally, I really enjoy texts where language is a game as well as a way of expressing thoughts.

The novel, written by Georges Perec, was first published in 1969. But when it came out, the reader had to guess why it was called « la disparition », as references to the missing letter « e » were only implicit. When one knows what it is about, it may seem easy (the author describes what is missing as « a not quite complete circle, with a horizontal dash »), but the novel being one of the first books of its kind, we can imagine that it was not that easy to understand!

And for your information, novels or texts where a letter is missing are called lipograms (we never know, this word might come in handy one day 🙂 ).

And if you like the concept, feel free to try it! You can write your comments for this article without using the letter « e ».

[Français]

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