Encyclopedia of Contemporary French Culture

By Alex Hughes; Keith Reader | Go to book overview

Further reading

b
Bradby, D. (1991) Modern French Drama 1940-1990 , 2nd edition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (see the section on collective creation).

Perec, Georges

b. 1936, Paris;

d. 1982, Ivry

Novelist, autobiographer and director

When he died at the age of 46, Perec, of Polish-Jewish parentage, had produced a disconcertingly varied body of work. Since then, partly through posthumous publications, he has come to be regarded as one of the most influential creators of his time. The first of two landmarks in his literary career was the publication, in 1965, of Things: A Chronicle of the Nineteen Sixties (Les Choses: une histoire des années soixante), a sociologically inspired novel about consumerism, written without dialogue but including numerous hidden quotations, including some from Flaubert's Sentimental Education, an earlier ironic study of deluded youth. The second was Life: A User's Manual (La Vie mode d'emploi), an extraordinary creative feat where the entire contents of a Parisian apartment block are conjured up in words and stories, each chapter focusing on the same instant in the lives of the inhabitants of one apartment at a time. Like his mentor, Raymond Queneau, Perec saw that eclectic erudition, combined with a highly speculative stance and a strong sense of form, could produce works which defied all established categories. While fiction and storytelling were always important to him, he identified three other themes as being of equal significance: first, the quest for ways of exploring and recording everyday reality, which inspired Espèces d'espaces (Kinds of Space) and Tentative d'épuisement d'un lieu parisien (Attempt to Exhaust a Parisian Space); second, autobiography and memory, which led to W or the Childhood Memory (W ou le souvenir d'enfance), a work haunted by his mother's destruction in the Nazi holocaust, and Je me souviens (I Remember) a list of 480 'collective' or generational memories; and third, games and formal constraints, which inspired Perec, avid maker of crosswords and co-author of a treatise on the Japanese game of Go, to become a fervent member of OuLiPo, and to write A Void (La Disparition), a full-length novel written without the letter 'e'. Always creative and stimulating, Perec's works, including films such as Un Homme qui dort (A Man Asleep) and Récits d'Ellis Island (Ellis Island Stories-with Robert Bober), generally weave his various interests into new patterns, combining a playful lightness of touch with themes whose seriousness and importance have been increasingly recognized.

MICHAEL SHERINGHAM

See also: autobiography


Further reading

b
Bellos, D. (1993) Georges Perec: A Life in Words, London: Harvill (essential background reading).

Périer, François

b. 1919, Paris

Actor, real name Gabriel Pillu

Périer has played a wide range of roles in Parisian boulevard theatres, at the Théâtre National Populaire and the Comédie-Française, as well as on radio and television. Influenced throughout his career by Sartre, he appeared in the 1948 production of Dirty Hands (Les Mains sale).

ANNIE SPARKS

See also: theatre

-419-

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