53 Days: A Novel

53 Days: A Novel

53 Days: A Novel

53 Days: A Novel


Georges Perec, the celebrated author of Life A User's Manual (Godine, 1987), was working on this "literary thriller" at the time of his death. He had completed only 11 chapters of a planned 28, but left extensive drafts and notes supplying the rest of the mystery, as well as numerous twists and subplots. From these, Harry Mathews and Jacques Roubaud have assembled the elements of the unfinished mystery, along the way providing a fascinating view into the author's mind as he fashioned his literary conundrum.

Absorbing, allusive, and joyously playful, "53 Days" is the ultimate detective story. The narrator, a teacher in a tropical French colony, is trying to track down the famous crime-writer Robert Serval, who has mysteriously disappeared. Serval has left behind the manuscript of his last, unfinished novel, which may contain clues to his fate. From this beginning, Perec lures the reader into a labyrinth of mirror-stories whose solutions can only be glimpsed before they in turn recede around the corner.

In the tradition of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, Perec's "53 Days" is a supremely satisfying, engrossing, and truly original mystery. Like his previous work, it is also "a kaleidoscope of ingenious juxtapositions" (Le Monde) from one of the century's most inventive and important writers.


15 May

The army and the police are still patrolling the city.

Ten days ago, for the twentieth anniversary of Independence, the miners of Cularo held a rally in Avenue de la Présidence-à-Vie which left eight dead, amongst them a woman and a child. a state of emergency was declared, bringing in its wake a string of irritations and constraints. the alleged ringleaders were arrested, all gatherings were banned, cars were searched, and a six p.m. curfew was imposed. Obviously, like all other schools, the Lycée Français was closed.

Grianta began to seem all day long what it normally was only from noon until five -- a dead city, crushed beneath its heat and its own silence. It was really very curious, in the late afternoon, at the hour when crowds ritually flood beneath the colonnade of Place de la Paix, to see the café terraces practically empty -- waiters standing in lines, stock still, behind the potted azaleas, holding big circular trays under their arms, gazing blindly at the few soldiers seated behind their half-pints of fizzy orange. a week ago, the chief waiter at the Brasserie de Paris was roughed up for having spilled zabaglione on a second lieutenant in the Flying Squad, since when the waiters of Grianta have put up unbeatably effective passive resistance to the whole officer corps. With all the appearance of impeccable zeal, they manage to take a good twenty-five minutes to serve a lemonade or a granité.

I have hardly been out at all these last ten days. I just take a little turn around the town centre every evening between five and a quarter to six, mainly to hear the birds. At that hour, they flock in their thousands in the eucalyptus trees, but there is usually such a crowd that you can hardly hear them. I take the opportunity to buy . . .

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