Perec: Life: A User’s Manual (1978)

Joshua Cohen‘s review in Tablet magazine, of Georges Perec‘s 1978 book, Life: A User’s Manual, just republished in a new translation, argues that Perec followed a kabbalistic tradition:

Forget that each chapter’s length is predetermined, that each chapter’s people are predetermined; forget each list of activities, of physical positions, and reading material; what’s most kabbalistic about Perec, and about the best of Oulipo, is not this technical aspect but the transmutation: the magical turning of one thing, a dead word, into another, a living person.

Kabbalistic practice—which, our sages hold, created angels and golems, animals for food and labor in the fields and even, once, in an experiment the Talmud attributes to Rabba, a walking talking human being—became, by the time fiction and poetry came to be written, a cultural act in which letters and words didn’t create life, but merely simulated it.

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