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 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.
* * *
– 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.