Species of Spaces, 2012

This was taken in Clock House, Beckenham, UK.

Species of Spaces and Other Pieces  is an anthology of essays and autobiography by Georges Perec. It was first published as Espèces d’espaces by Galilée in France. Penguin published it in the UK in 1997.

Georges Perec approached writing like a game. Exhibit A: his first novel, Les Choses: Une histoire des années soixante (Things: A Story of the Sixties), 1965 is written entirely in the conditional tense, emphasising the fact that its characters do not hold as much importance as the things described. Exhibit B: La Disparition (A Void), 1969 is a 300-page French novel written entirely without the letter ‘e’ (amazingly, Gilbert Adair translated it into English in 1995, and won the Scott Moncrieff prize for his troubles).

You can read more about Georges Perec here. But if you really want the skinny on Georges I recommend: Georges Perec: A Life in Words by David Bellos (1993).

I’ve read every translation I can lay my hands on – I’m a fan. Despite often being experimental, Perec’s books are very accessible. Species of Spaces is a fun place to start, but Life A Users Manual is generally acknowledged as his masterpiece.

(Perec was a member of the Oulipo group (made up of mainly French writers and mathematicians), who sought to create works using constrained writing techniques (one of which, hilariously, was to write poetry in Great Ape – a language Edgar Rice Burroughs made up for his simian characters). )

Here’s the beginning of Species of Spaces:

Figure 1: Map of the Ocean (taken from Lewis Carroll’s Hunting of the Snark)

SPACE

OPEN SPACE

ENCLOSED SPACE

OUTER SPACE

SPACE SUIT

SPACE AGE

LIVING SPACE

PROJECTIVE SPACE

SPACE CAPSULE

In our house, the book can be found: study, left-hand bookshelves, third shelf down.

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Thank you  John and Deanne for making me think about titles. Extra thanks to Deanne for  tag ideas etc. Ta too to Terry for sending me bookshelfwards in search of ideas, and of course to Richard at CK Ponderings for being a super-cool collaborator.

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