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Literature / A Void

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In 1968, a group of companions are looking for their odd insomniac pal, Anton Vowl, who is missing. Rooting through his flat for hints, said companions find his compulsion with lipograms and wordplay, but dismiss it as unimportant. But as this group sifts through his syntactical manipulations and find additional occasions of this constraint, individuals in this inquiry start to vanish...

Written by Georges Perec in 1969, it's noted for being a book without the letter "e" which is the most common letter in the French language (and also the English language). Its original title was La Disparition (The Disappearance) and was translated into English by Gilbert Adair in 1994 and managed to keep the letter "e" from appearing at all. This translation has subsequently been heavily criticised by another of Perec's translators, so it could be that another version is in the offing.

One of the reasons Perec wrote the book is that both his parents went missing, presumed dead during World War 2 (his family were French Jews), and the official document confirming his mother's disappearance was headed Acte de Disparition.

Later Perec penned Les Revenentes (The Exeter Text in English) which doesn't have a single vowel in it except the letter "e".


  • Crapsack World: The prologue goes into a lot of detail about France and how unpleasant it is.
  • Death by Falling Over: Douglas after somebody cries out and he loses his footing.
  • Framing Device: Squaw telling everybody the story of Augustus telling Vowl about Douglas and Olga.
  • God Is Inept: In Anton's story, after the Vatican is unable to elect a new Pope, God talks to them and tells them to get Aignan (who has put himself on an island) as he is the perfect image of a martyr and would be perfect. After some problems, several members of the Church get to the island except he isn't there.
    "... proof that Our Lord is occasionally wrong, a notion that brings about a profound diminution of faith in His flock... So God, too, alas is only human."
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: The summary of the majority of the chapters, though they are usually unimportant to the plot.
    In which you will find a carp scornfully turning down a halva fit for a king
  • Large Ham: Subverted:
    Aignan: "Now, now, Sphinx, no hamming it up."
  • MacGuffin:
    • Discussed in the chapter titled: Which, notwithstanding a kind of McGuffin, has no ambition to rival Hitchcock
    • Augustus' ring.
  • Meaningful Names: The friends' names refer to each of the vowels (including "y") except "e"
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Douglas Haig
  • One-Steve Limit: There is the fictional character Aignan and Conson's son, Aignan. "Odd, that"
  • Out with a Bang: Inverted. Olga's mother, Anastasia, is saved by having sex. Except she's not really Olga's mother.
  • Postmodernism: The characters are aware of the limitations in the language.
    • Ismail (a character from a book Anton is reading - possibly) becomes aware that he's in a film from the 1930s.
  • Riddle of the Sphinx: The fictional Aignan meets the Sphinx, though it asks a different question. It laments that it figured a kid would bring out its downfall.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: A meta-example, obviously.
  • Shout-Out: Many.
  • Title Drop: In reference to the missing book in a collection.