Monday, February 17, 2014


For long intervals, no buses, no cars

The  end of mass

The  rain starts falling again.

National Day for the Elderly: lots of people are wearing little paper badges on the collars of their  coats or their raincoats : these prove that they’ve already contributed

A 63 goes by

A lady carrying a cake-box goes by (classic image of the exitings of Sunday mass effectively testified here)

Some children

Some wheeled shopping bags

A 2CV whose windshield is adorned with a caduceus, driven by an elderly gentleman, parks at the edgs of the sidewalk; the elderly gentelman comes to look for an elderly lady in the café who is drinking a coffee while reading Le Monde

An elegant woman goes by, holding, stems up, a large bouquet of flowers.

A 63 goes by

A little girl goes by, carrying two large bags of groceries

A bird settles atop a lampost

It is noon

Gust of  wind

 by Georges Perec (1936-1982)  from An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, as translated into English by Marc Lowenthal and published by Wakefield Press of Cambridge Massachusetts in 2010. Perec's original text, Tentative d'épuisement d'un lieu parisien, was written in 1974 and published by Christian Bourgois in 1975. 

                                                          *                  *                   * 
The author ". . . lets the contents of an actual Parisian square rove about his, for the most part, stationary eye. Time, unarrestable, works against his project, though, and he is diverted from his observations by an effort  to observe what has specifically changed in his field of view from one day to the next; seemingly nothing, but then again, yes . . . what will, in fact, eventually become everything. Every bus that passes, every person who walks by, every object, thing, and event  everything that happens and that does not happen ultimately serves no other function than that of so many chronometers, so many signals, methods, and clues for marking time, for eroding permanence."  

 from an afterword by translator Marc Lowenthal   

For me (reading this fairly new translation of Perec's short book 40 years after he wrote it and more than 30 years after he died) there is a surprise in how little the story's imagery has dated. Three specific dates in October 1974 fill the text, narrowed down to a list of what Perec claims he observed on those dates while keeping his eyes fixed on place Saint-Sulpice in Paris from the vantage-point of various cafe chairs and park benches. If his book were a film, every shot would be full of 'period detail' that would seal it inside the amber of the nineteen seventies, especially the clothing (often mentioned in the book) and motor vehicles (constantly mentioned in the book). The strangeness and success of Perec's project is revealed in the ways he silently filters out these signals of period-style.