Thursday, 12 July 2018

Joan wa quizzical

Georges Perec famously once wrote an entire novel without using the letter 'e'. This blog is composed on a laptop which is best described as being 'well old' and is currently suffering certain technical problems in typing the letter which comes between 'r' and 't' in the alphabet. The proofreading regime has been stepped up (which is, as you would expect, a euphemism for introduced in the first place), but pleae excue the occaional lape.

Perec belonged to the Oulipo group of writers and mathematicians. Fellow member, the late American author Harry Mathews, once described the group as "relatively uninterested in literature that purports to describe the 'real' world or that even pretends to be the product of sincere feeling". Long term readers of this blog - and bizarrely those appear to be the only type that there are - will perhaps recognise a resonance.

Poetry has recently made a comeback blogwise (and full apologies to everyone, especially the poet, for your bloggist's rather free-form translation from the Serbo-Croat yesterday; a much better translation can be found here) so I give you 'La Vie', a sonnet by Oulipo member Jacques Roubaud, which on this occasion I have left in the original French:

000000  0000  01
011010  111  001
101011  101  001
110011  0011  01

000101  0001  01
010101  011  001
010111  001  001
010101  0001  01

01 01 01 0010 11
01 01 01 01 01 11
001 001 010 101
000 1 0 1 001 00 0
0 0 0 0 0 110 0 0 0 101
0 0 0 0 01 0 0 0 0 0 0

While we are on the subject, this coming weekend sees the only non-imaginary 29th day of the month in this pataphysical year and o let' end with ome Beatle:


  1. If we recite the poem in English, each '1' sounds remarkably like 'wan' (ワン), the Japanese onomatopoeic word for woof. As well as providing reliable comedy material for cripplingly hungover Japan-based ESL instructors, 'La Vie' neatly returns us to the original topic: the poesy of Geoffrey Boycott.

    1. Excellent! An accurate imitation of one of his innings would also have record the running out of numerous batting partner along the way. Anyway, best wishes to Sir Geoff, who is currently recovering from major heart surgery.

      Recitations of the poem - in French - can be found on Youtube, including some very enthusiastic audience responses. It's a bit like a Gallic version of 'Mornington Crescent'.