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The Games of Fiction

Georges Perec and Modern French Ludic Narrative

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David Gascoigne

This book presents the first complete overview in English of the prose fiction of Georges Perec, recognised since his death in 1982 as one of the most influential and innovative French writers of his generation. In particular, it explores in depth the nature of the numerous, and often astonishing, games and ludic devices which he used to generate and develop his material and to draw his readers into a playful interaction with his texts. Moreover this study situates Perec’s writings as the culmination of a significant tradition in twentieth-century French writing, that of ludic fiction, whose evolution is traced from Roussel to Ricardou and the Nouveau Roman and Oulipo movements. In so doing, it seeks to answer two important questions: why did ludic writing reach such particular prominence in the 1960s and 1970s? What made its appeal for Georges Perec so special that it came to shape his whole approach to writing, and led this orphan of war and holocaust to invest literary game-playing with such a profound personal and cultural importance?
Contents: Ludic writing: the problem of definition – Serious games and concepts of play – From Roussel to Oulipo: influences and exemplars – Serialism: from music to writing – The Nouveau Roman: some ludic perspectives and practices – Perec and ludic form (1): from Les Choses to Un homme qui dort – Perec and ludic form (2): from La Disparition to W ou le souvenir d’enfance – Perec’s ludic programme for La Vie mode d’emploi – The clinamen: the play in the system – The play of voices in La Vie mode d’emploi – Reading the adversary in La Vie mode d’emploi – Picture puzzles and frame games: from La Vie mode d’emploi to Un cabinet d’amateur and ‘53 jours’.