cover image La Boutique Obscure: 124 Dreams

La Boutique Obscure: 124 Dreams

Georges Perec, trans. from the French by Daniel Levin Becker. Melville (Random, dist.), $18.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-61219-175-1

Between 1968 and 1972 Oulipian master Perec (1936-1982) recorded and reworked what is ostensibly a dream journal, now translated into English for the first time. Chronicling apparent fears and obsessions, Perec (Life A User's Manual) is concerned with his height, oppressive police, concentration camps, drugstores, and potentially Oedipal relationships. He worries about the premise of his novel A Void, and returns again and again to the woman Z, who shows up replacing Z's with S's in a bookstore. She eventually abandons him, becoming a "scar" he must live with. Perec's work is surreal, but only just; a narrative of a broken relationship emerges across the four years of dreams. It is the story of a mind coming to terms with a Europe locked in the Cold War's paranoid haze: familiar places no longer seem the same; people act oddly; the world as experienced is strange. These may have been real dreams, but they feel like more, as dreams often do. And "because the labyrinth leads nowhere but out of itself," the book ends with the "real memory" of Perec as a child bouncing a ball against a convent wall. This is the reader's reward: watching Perec's mind weaving metaphor and story even while asleep. (Feb.)