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He keenly felt the pinch of living on the cheap. Money also frequently appears in his dreams—lost, found, exchanged, counted, hidden.

La Boutique Obscure: 124 Dreams by Georges Perec

Waking life: This dream is real. His front teeth turned black, so that he preferred to be photographed with his mouth shut. Waking life: For twenty years, Perec worked as the archivist for a neurophysiology research lab, where he developed several widely admired pre-computer methods of indexing large amounts of information.

Waking life: Perec was trained as a parachutist in the French Army. Waking life: Perec was caught in a nightmarish situation in which, according to French law, he should have been released of his obligation to serve in the Army because his father had died in combat in service to France during WWII and his mother had been deported. In the meantime, he needlessly served all but three weeks of the mandated two years of military service.


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Waking life: An anxiety dream. The central story, told amidst cacophonic detail, is about the methodical pursuits of a man who aims to live without having made any kind of mark on the world. After the film shoot, he walks by shops selling wooden plaques that are lying on the ground.

The World Dream Bank: The Denunciation

Waking life: After his parents died, Perec was raised by his aunt and uncle. The equipment rentals could not be rearranged, and so Perec went to the film shoot in the morning and rushed to the funeral afterwards.

Coincidence or not, the central character of A Man Asleep comes to the same conclusion. He was the most serious of writers, and was yet willing to indulge his ludic impulse. Perec held the world record for the longest lipogram and another for his word palindrome. He spent days crafting the perfect crossword puzzle. His fingers were spotted with blisters from the pinball machine.

La Boutique Obscure: 124 Dreams

Most of his dreams are infused with recurring motifs such as the fear of arrest, the SS and even Adolph Hitler; motifs that make reference to his Jewish ancestry and most likely to his childhood memories. This freedom is passed forward to the reader who can decipher the symbols, images and patterns that impregnate these dreams and experience the text in a more unfettered way. Through the repetition of certain elements and through their accumulation, the surreal narrative begins to cross into the realm of reality. La Boutique Obscure was written in and it is hard to believe that it has taken 40 years for the first English translation to appear.

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