Review: A Void by Georges Perec

I’m back! After my last post here, I got sick and didn’t get around blogging every weekend like I used to. I also missed our weekly blog challenge (;_;). I decided to post a book review this time, since I haven’t posted any for a while.

A Void by Georges Perec was a novel originally written in French. Perec was a linguist who had a knack of experimenting different ways in writing language. For this novel, he wrote it without using a single word with the letter ‘e.’ That alone is mind-blogging, but when it was translated to English, it was a feat! Yes, the translator, Gilbert Adair, didn’t use the letter ‘e’ for translating this novel to English.

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A Void by Georges Perec, Vintage Classics edition, 2008

I actually bought my copy three years ago. I was in Singapore for work, and of course we did a little sightseeing. One of the places we went to was Kinokuniya, which is now one of my favorite bookstores. It was where I found this copy (and two more books ^_^).

First off, reading this book was very difficult. It had a strange tone–formal and quite wordy at times. This is likely because of its nature. English has a lot of words with ‘e’ in them, so to create a whole novel without it, you’d have to replace words that are more commonly used and easier to the reader. I found myself doing a translation while reading it, replacing a word with one that has the forbidden letter. Despite this, I eventually got a hang of it and its story.

A Void is about the sudden disappearance of Anton Vowl. Before he vanished, he had sent postcards to his friends with cryptic messages. His friends, some of whom weren’t even acquainted to each other, came together to solve the mystery–both of his disappearance and the queer messages they received. But as they delved deeper into it, they soon discovered Anton’s secrets and how it related to their own past.

The novel starts out slowly, taking its time to build everything in the beginning. Because it had several subplots, it tends to veer away from the main plot at times. But of course, all the loose strings came together at the end.

One of its main themes is fatalism, which I’m not a fan of. It just frustrates me whenever characters are put in a situation wherein they have ‘no control’ because of a curse or ill fate. It was unfortunate that the story had focused on this.

Other than that, the novel is still impressive given the challenge that was imposed by its author. It also feels fulfilling after finishing such a difficult read. I almost gave up on it a couple times, to be honest. It’s pretty amazing how writers come up with unique ways in telling a story, and it just shows how much we can do with literature.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Local

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For this week’s photo challenge, I decided to feature a Philippine novel that I’m quite fond of. Mga Gerilya sa Powell Street by Benjamin Pimentel tells the struggle of Philippine veterans who fought for the US Army in the Second World War, but haven’t received the benefits promised to them. They live in Powell Street in San Francisco, wherein they lean on each other for support while sending their meager pension to their families back home. Very few stories make me cry, and this is one of them. Though it is a fictional story, the hardships that these Filipino soldiers went through are real.

My 2016 in Books + #Blessed December

So I know it’s 2017 already, but because I’ve been busy (or procrastinating), I wasn’t able to write a blog post for December. Here’s my all-in-one post: recap, musings, reflections, etc.

Still Thankful

The previous year has been tough for most of us, and this is probably because of the many changes that we have to deal with. For me, I had to face the tough decision of whether I should continue with my graduate studies. During our vacation in the US, I had time to reflect and I went back and forth with the pros and cons. Ultimately, I realized that studying no longer brings me the spark and joy that I once had when I started. Every book that I read felt like a chore. In short, I wasn’t happy. I knew that even if I forced myself to graduate, that would be exactly what it would feel like: forced.

Tough as it may be, I honestly felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders when I decided to take an indefinite break from my studies. I still have my work, which I focused my energies on. I’m grateful that my efforts paid off and were recognized. Who knows, maybe I will get back to writing? I can’t say have quit for good. I just knew that I had to let it be for now, because it’s really not working out. Nevertheless, I don’t feel like all those years I spent went to waste. I learned a lot, and that’s more than I could ask for.

My 2016 Reading Challenge

This is my 5th year in challenging myself to read a specific number of books. In 2015, my reading challenge was 30 books, but I was able to read 25 books. I though it was shame because I almost made it, so in 2016, I set the same goal. Alas…

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I’ve been lazy last year and hadn’t been faithful to my reading habits. It might also be partly because in the first half of the year, I had to do some required reading and it was not all fun. However I did have some favorites.

Haruki Murakami, Underground – This is one of Murakami’s nonfiction works and talks about the Tokyo Gas Attack in the 60s. But more than the victims’ accounts and the suspects’ side, the book shows how the Japanese behave whenever a disaster occurs. It reminded me of the stories that came out during the Kobe earthquake and how there was no looting.

A Natural History of Love, Diane Ackerman – Ackerman’s works were highly recommended by many of my friends since college. For some reason, I only got to read her work last year. This book tackles everything there is about love–from historical figures to love for pets–and it hooks you from beginning to end. It’s not just because the content itself is interesting, but also because her prose is beautiful.

Cubao Midnight Express, Tony Perez – This is one of those books that gives a jolt to the senses. I’m used to reading at night, and some of the stories in this collection freaked me out so much that I had difficulty sleeping. The stories here shouldn’t really surprise me–rape, crime, murder are nothing new in the city. But there’s something about the stories that still gave me the creeps and was quite disturbing. And if a work of fiction affects you this much, it must be good.

For Who the Bell Tolls, David Marsh – This is an English grammar book recommended by my former supervisor. I just read it out of curiosity, and am glad that I did. For a grammar book, it was a very entertaining read. It presented a very practical application about the use of English language. It also shows good and bad examples, in a sarcastic and witty way.

I didn’t realize that most of my favorites would be nonfiction books. Admittedly, I got disappointed with most of the novels that I read last year. Maybe because I had other expectations. I hope with better luck this 2017.

I reset my challenge with 25 books. I’m planning to read more series. I’m currently reading the Millenium series by Stieg Larsson and I also have the Hitchhiker’s Guide series lined up (I watched the movie and absolutely loved it). Feel free to give me suggestions! :p

Cheers to 2017! ^_^