Winter Journeys

Georges Perec and Oulipo

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  • Atlas Press
  • 2013
  • ISBN 1 900565 64 1
  • 344 pages
  • Hardcover
  • 19.7 × 17.6 × 2.7 cm

Atlas Anti-Classics 18

In 1979, Georges Perec wrote a brief entertainment for a publisher’s catalogue, and “The Winter Journey” quickly became his most frequently reprinted short story. Set on the eve of the Second World War, it recounts the discovery of a great literary masterpiece that conceals a scandalous secret at the heart of modern French literature. Every aspect of literary history will have to be rewritten in consequence. However, the War intervenes, and the work is lost forever.

The Oulipo is comprised mainly of French writers who are interested in exploiting “constraints” in literature (Oulipo stands for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle which means, roughly, Workshop for Potential Literature). Its members have included luminaries of the calibre of Italo Calvino, Marcel Duchamp and Raymond Queneau… but it was Perec who perhaps became its most celebrated practitioner. The present volume includes, and then extends Perec’s brief parable. Over two decades his fellow Oulipians have written twenty sequels to this tale, between 1992 and January of this year. It turns out to be a story resonant with possibilities, and the result is a sort of “hyper-novel”, a novel of digressions, gradual elaboration and bizarre forays into the totally unexpected. Winter Journeys has grown to become one of the most extended and congenial literary experiments of recent times, and includes meditations on the literary tastes of worms, book-burning in the Nazi period, the delights of plagiarism and the twisted rationality of bibliophilia. It is also a monument to the friendship, ingenuity and collective creativity of this uniquely long-lived group of writers.

The first edition of Winter Journeys featured Perec’s original story followed by nine sequels; this new and augmented edition adds a further 11 sequels, written by members of the Oulipo in the years since the previous edition was published, and the last of which appearing in print here for the very first time.

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