The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise
By George Perec, translated by David Bellos
Verso, $16.95, 96 pages
Like Jorge Louis Borges and his fellow OULIPIAN (Ouvroir de littérature potentielle) writer Italo Calvino, Georges Perec stands apart from lesser and more pedantic riddlers with his superior craftsmanship. Also like Calvino and Borges, Perec was a fabulist, but he differed from them by setting his stories not in the idealized worlds of chivalric medieval romances, Caudillo gunfights and astral libraries, but in the everyday world around him.
Perec produced lively work in every form he tried his hand at. (His grocery lists, likely conceived as a series of ‘pataphysical anagrams and numerically constrained knight-moves between the aisles of a supermarket, if ever collected and published, will in all probability revolutionize that genre.) Three years after winning the 1965 Prix Renaudot for his first novel “Things: A Story of the Sixties,” a sinuously flowing dissection of a young couple’s bleak scramble for career, status and possessions avant le deluge of May ‘68, he accepted computer pioneer Jacques Perriaud’s challenge to write a text based on an office flowchart.