The reissuing in 1980 of Georges Perec's fourth novel La Disparition ( 1969) rescued a very intriguing work from the shades of unavailability. The book tells a funny, mysterious, bafflingly complex tale, in the course of which all the main characters disappear one by one. First to go is the Parisian bachelor Anton Voyl, whose obsession with an enigmatic motif in a rug he owns propels him into hallucination, insomnia, a life of fantasies, even a desperate resort to surgery, at the end of which he vanishes without a trace. Several friends and two detectives begin examining the circumstances of his disappearance. All eventually gather in Agincourt, in a chateau belonging to a certain Augustus B. Clifford, and there uncover a concatenation of accidents, plots, and crimes stemming from a terrible curse, of which they themselves have been designated as future victims. As the malediction works itself out, we learn about curious laws of primogeniture that are practiced in Ankara, the love of an Albanian bandit for a beautiful Hollywood star, and other exotic matters; but the tangle of stories is unraveled at Agincourt itself, where in the final chapter the last disappearance occurs, leaving only one survivor — the author himself, or at least his stand-in. . . .
The final sentence of La Disparition reads: "Dying marks this book's conclusion." The novel begins:
Four cardinals, a rabbi, a Masonic admiral, a trio of insignificant politicos in thrall to an Anglo-Saxon multinational inform inhabitants by radio and by mural displays that all risk dying for want of food.