I Remember

by Georges Perec, translated by Philip Terry, introduction and notes by David Bellos

Available from David R. Godine

At once an affectionate portrait of mid-century Paris and a daring pointillist autobiography, Georges Perec's I Remember is the last of this essential writer's major works to be translated into English. Consisting of 480 numbered statements, all beginning identically with "I remember," and all limited to pieces of public knowledge—brand names and folk wisdom, actors and illnesses, places and things ("I remember: "When parents drink, children tipple"; "I remember Hermès handbags, with their tiny padlocks"; "I remember myxomatosis")—the book represents a secret key to the world of Perec's fiction. As critic, translator, and Perec biographer David Bellos notes in his introduction to this edition, since its original publication, "It's hardly possible to utter the words je me souviens in French these days without committing a literary allusion." As playful and puzzling as the best of Perec's novels, I Remember began as a simple writing exercise, and grew into an expansive, exhilarating work of art: the image of one unmistakable and irreplaceable life, shaped from the material of our collective past. For this edition, Perec's 480 memories, sometimes obvious, sometimes obscure, have been elucidated and explained by David Bellos.

George Perec's novels are widely regarded as modern classics, but his linguistic mastery actually extended to a stunning variety of forms: from autobiography, drama, and criticism to crossword puzzles and the world's longest palindrome. Ever in search of new verbal challenges, he wrote one novel, A Void, entirely without the letter "e"; and in 1978 he published the monumental, structurally complex Life A User's Manual, which many critics have placed (in the words of The Boston Globe) "on the level of Joyce, Proust, Mann, Kafka, and Nabokov."