sábado, 10 de abril de 2010

On E.R.'s Blog, 2

Will assume that most of you reading Life A User's Manual for the upcoming 4/30 group read are already aware of the postcript where Perec admits to borrowing or adapting "quotations" from a number of different writers.  While I'm not far enough into the novel yet to see how meta Perec gets with these fictions, I do look forward at some point to comparing stuff like "The Tale of the Acrobat who did not want to get off his trapeze ever again" (for me, one of the many highlights so far) with Kafka's "First Sorrow" & etc. to see if something other than just a playful rewrite is involved.  For now, though, I'm going to take the lazy man's way out and draw your attention once again to that post that e.r., one of my favorite bloggers anywhere, put up on his blog at the end of last month.  E.R. points out that Gaspard Winckler, the character charged with turning Bartlebooth's watercolors into jigsaw puzzles in Life A User's Manual, learned his craft from a man named Gouttman.  Incredibly, another Goutman with a very similar set of credentials but with only one "t" to his name also appears as a character in Flaubert's posthumously-published novel Bouvard and Pécuchet.  Doing the intertextual math, e.r. hypothesizes that the Goutman of Flaubert's novel could very well be the same Gouttman of Perec's novel reappearing 70 years after his encounters with Bouvard and Pécuchet just in time to train the young Gaspard Winckler in his craft.  An astonishing shelf life for such a minor character, no?

Perec: "Another time, with sudden warmth, [Winckler] told Valène about the man who had taught him his work.  He was called Monsieur Gouttman, and he made religious artefacts which he sold himself in churches and procurators' offices: crosses, medals, and rosaries of every size, candelabra for oratories, portable altars, artificial jewellry, bouquets, sacred hearts in blue cardboard, red-bearded Saint Josephs, china calvaries.  Gouttman took him on as an apprentice when he had just turned twelve."

Flaubert:  "One time she brought along a portly individual, who had small eyes like a Chinaman and a nose like a vulture's beak.  This was Mr. Goutman, a dealer in religious artifacts.  Out by the shed, he took a few items from their boxes: crosses, medallions, and rosaries in all sizes, candelabras for shrines, portable altars, tinsel bouquets, as well as Sacred Hearts made of blue cardboard, Saint Josephs with reddish beards, and porcelain crucifixes.  Pécuchet coveted them all; only the price held him back."

Not sure how important all this is in the grand scheme of things, but it's amusing to note that a character named Gaspard Winckler himself appears in multiple Perec novels.  The puzzles, they just keep on coming!

  • e.r., barcoborracho
  • Flaubert, Gustave.  Bouvard and Pécuchet [translated by Mark Polizzotti].  Champaign: Dalkey Archive Press, 2005, p. 214.
  • Perec, Georges.  Life A User's Manual [translated by David Bellos].  Boston: Godine, 2009, p. 37.

5 comentarios:

  1. I love reading your posts on this book: they're fascinating, and best of all, they tell me about the book without my having to read it! :--)

    I do think Perec is fortunate that Flaubert was in the posthumous mode so he wouldn't have to worry about being sued for plagiarism.

  2. I didn't know about the "quotations" until the end because I always wait and read explanatory stuff after I've finished a novel. I like to give a novel every chance to work on its own. However, I knew I had read the trapeze-artist story somewhere and finally figured out it was Kafka. The others-- I'll be happy to hear whatever you find out. Also, anything you might uncover along the way about plagiarism issues. And thanks for the map cum explanation. Life was mostly very fun reading!

  3. So interesting! I too loved that story about the acrobat. Thanks for these posts - they bring so much (more!) to such a rich book. Fun. :)

  4. Whoa, look at you - your blog ephemera est en francais! Je l'aime!

    I hadn't noticed the postscript, but will now keep my ear tuned for echoes of other texts. My reading of Germinal is grinding to its inevitable and tragic conclusion, and I'm really looking forward to finishing it & transferring my attentions to the lighter & cleverer strains of Perec.

  5. *Jill: Love your "posthumous mode" quip, but I don't think Perec was too worried about being accused of plagiarism since he also altered living writers' quotes as well (and cited them, sort of). Will be interested in hearing how the others respond to this tactic of his, but I think it's fairly genius myself.

    *Julia: I usually put off reading "introductory material" until the end these days also, but I was too giddy about Perec to wait this time around. Looking forward to your full review of the novel and glad that the French map came in handy.

    *Sarah: Happy to hear that these goofy posts have been amusing you--was worried that my enthusiasm about Perec might be irritating to others! Acrobat story = "the bomb," as you youngsters like to say.

    *Emily: I understand the desire to say goodbye to good reads so one can spend more time with Perec and a potential great read. In the meantime, je suis très heureux de recevoir tes commentaires sur l'aspect du blog pendant ce "mois français" consacré aux messieurs Perec et Proust. Merci, mon amie!