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La Boutique Obscure

124 Dreams

Translated by Daniel Levin Becker

The beguiling, never-before-translated dream diary of Georges Perec …

In La Boutique Obscure Perec once again revolutionized literary form, creating the world’s first “nocturnal autobiography.” From 1968 until 1972 — the period when he wrote his most well-known works — the beloved French stylist recorded his dreams. But as you might expect, his approach was far from orthodox.

Avoiding the hazy psychoanalysis of most dream journals, he challenged himself to translate his visions and subconscious churnings directly into prose. In laying down the nonsensical leaps of the imagination, he finds new ways 
to express the texture and ambiguity of dreams — those qualities that prove 
so elusive.

Beyond capturing a universal experience for the first time and being a fine document of literary invention, La Boutique Obscure contains the seeds of some of Perec’s most famous books. It is also an intimate portrait of one of the great innovators of modern literature.

— Read an excerpt in the New York Review of Books

— Read an excerpt in Tin House

— Listen to the translator, Daniel Levin Becker, discuss La Boutique Obscure on KALW’s West Coast Live

GEORGES PEREC (1936-1982) was a French novelist, filmmaker, documentary maker and essayist. In death he remains a member of Oulipo, the workshop of potential literature. He is most famous for the novels Life: A User’s Manual and A Void.

Translator DANIEL LEVIN BECKER (b. 1984) is the youngest member of Oulipo, and only the second American to ever be so honored. He is a writer, translator and music critic, and reviews editor of The Believer. He is the author Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature (Harvard 2012).

“We can read [the dreams] for their style, placing them at an important point in Perec’s literary development…its rebuses are not there to be solved, and we can only guess what lies behind its wordplay.” —Times Literary Supplement

“The text is superbly translated by Daniel Levin Becker, who has rendered Perec’s French into English with aplomb and resourcefulness, and who has moreover supplied a useful and engaging afterword.” —Review of Contemporary Fiction

“In page after page of banal weirdness, Perec is … daring us to think … that dreams may in fact be fragments of an ongoing story that will never end, as long as we keep revisiting and re-writing it every night.”—Hazlitt on Georges Perec’s La Boutique Obscure

“Siri Hustvedt’s favorite books of the year were fiction and memoir, those genres most preoccupied with “particular lives”: the novels “The Chemistry of Tears,” by Peter Carey, and “Gone to the Forest,” by Katie Kitamura; Salman Rushdie’s account of life under the fatwa, “Joseph Anton,” and a new translation of Georges Perec’s dream diary, “La Boutique Obscure.” — The New York Times Book Review, ”Up Front,” December 28, 2012

“The book captivates…occasionally Perec’s dreaming mind alights on an image that condenses the pathos of an entire life.” — The Rumpus

“These may have been real dreams, but they feel like more….This is the reader’s reward: watching Perec’s mind weaving metaphor and story even while asleep.” — Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“Perec was a master of language and its usage…[La Boutique Obscure is] a chance to get beneath the shell of Perec’s formal systems and probe the soft pale body of the man himself.”—Art Review

“If you let it, the bundled text of dreams provides insight into [Perec’s] most influential work … Daniel Levin Becker rises and meets the challenge of honoring Perec’s intuition.” — Library Journal (editor’s pick)

La Boutique Obscure … is a work of considerable breadth and variety, and much of it is good fun, too. Any new bit of Pereciana is welcome, and fans will certainly appreciate and enjoy La Boutique Obscure.” — The Complete Review

“If any dream diary is an invitation to interpretation, Perec’s is doubly so.” —Berfrois

“The play between constraint and freedom is constantly at work…Art does not come out of the constraints themselves, but of the vital and painful clash between control and chaos.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“Perec’s artistry has achieved a perfect balance between allure and imponderability.” The Los Angeles Times

“One of the most singular literary personalities in the world, a writer who resembled absolutely no one else.” Italo Calvino

“The genius of Perec [is] to marry a deeply humane melancholy with dazzling formal experiments.” —The Guardian

“For as long as people write by his rules, or read his work anew, his contribution to literature and to life will remain loving and vital.” —The Telegraph

“Fiendishly clever.” —Times Literary Supplement

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