Georges Perec on Spaces

Published on

I’m staying in an old house in Ardèche, France, and on a shelf I found a couple of books by Georges Perec.

Together with warm starry nights, the sound of crickets at night, and the smell of fig trees; his words became a backdrop to my stay.

A great pleasure is to discover, in a house where one has been invited to spend a weekend, books that one has not read but that one has felt like reading, or familiar books that one had not read for a long time. We take a dozen of them in the room, we read them, we reread them, almost until morning.1

All quotes were translated as best as I could from Perec’s Species of Spaces (Espèces d’espaces, 1974) and Thoughts of Sorts (Penser/Classer, 1985).

Village vibes are a welcome break from Berlin, and they got me thinking about which kind of space I want to live in.

We often think in terms of a city/country duality, but like with most (all?) dualities, reality turns out to be more nuanced.

Exhibit 1:

For most people, the countryside is a recreational area that surrounds their holiday home, that runs along the highway that they use on Friday evenings when they go there, and in which, on Sunday afternoons, if they feel like it, they will walk a few meters before going back to the city where, during the rest of the week, they will preach the return to nature.2

Exhibit 2:

The village utopia
First, we would have gone to school with the mailman.
We would go pick blackberries along small paths with the children, we would pick mushrooms with them, we would send them off to hunt snails.
We would know the birds by their song.
We would know each tree in our orchard.
We would wait for the seasons to return.3

Exhibit 3:

All utopias are depressing, because they leave no room for chance, for difference, for diversity. Everything was put in order and order prevails.
Behind every utopia, there is always a great taxonomic design: a place for each thing and each thing in its place.4

Living is moving from one space to another, trying as much as possible not to bump into things.5

Let’s see where this leads!

  1. Penser/Classer, 1985, p.123↩
  2. Espèces d’espaces, 1974, p.93↩
  3. Espèces d’espaces, 1974, p.95↩
  4. Penser/Classer, 1985, p.153↩
  5. Espèces d’espaces, 1974, p.14↩