Machine by Georges Perec Rev’d at Complete Review

Michael Orthofer reviews "The Machine," a radio play written by Geroges Perec and published for the first time in English in the recent all-Perec issue of the Review of Contemporary Fiction.

I've read this piece in my copy of the RCF, and it's great. Here are some of Michael's thoughts:

Perec takes the poem and subjects it to a number of operations — protocols that are, essentially, Oulipian constraints. And, as he explains:

To the attentive listener it may become clear that this play about language not only describes the functioning of a machine, but also, though in a more concealed and subtle manner, the inner mechanism of poetry.

Beginning with a purely technical analysis — "number of words", "number of metrical feet", etc. — Perec takes apart and pieces back together the poem in all sorts of ways. It is read front to back, bottom to top, randomly. Then come the more elaborate renderings and readings.

From simple rules ("omission of the last word of each line", "insertion of sounds in the word center") to "proverbialization" and "encyclopaedic diversification" he re-writes the poem in dozens of different forms. It's a study in the ways of the Oulipo (and language/machine-rules) but, surprisingly, also quite illuminating. Poetry does beget more poetry, even in this treatment.



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