Book Clips from Things by Georges Perec


  1. It would be pleasant to come and sit there, every morning, after a shower, scarcely dressed. On the table there would be a sizeable stoneware butter dish, jars of marmalade, honey, toast, grapefruit cut in two. It would be early. It would be May, the start of a long summer’s day.

  2. They would call this balance happiness and, with their freedom, with their wisdom and their culture, they would know how to retain and to reveal it in every moment of their living, together.

  3. From Palais-Royal to Saint-Germain-des-Prés, from Champ-de-Mars to the Champs-Elysées, from the Luxembourg Gardens to Montparnasse, from Ile Saint-Louis to the Marais, from Place des Ternes to Place de l’Opéra, from Madeleine to the Monceau Gardens, the whole of Paris was a perpetual temptation. They burned with desire to give in to it, passionately, straight away and for ever. But the horizon of their desires was mercilessly blocked; their great impossible dreams belonged only to Utopia.

  1. Most often, however, all they felt was impatience: they felt ready; they were available; they were waiting to live, they were waiting for money.

  2. There is no need for you to leave the house. Stay at your table and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t even wait, be completely quiet and alone. The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked, it can’t do otherwise, in raptures it will writhe before you. FRANZ KAFKA (Reflections on Sin, Suffering, Hope, and the True Way)

  3. You are sitting on a bed which is too short for you to be able to lie on it, full length, at night, and too narrow for you to be able to turn over on it, without extreme care. You are staring, almost fascinated now, at a pink plastic bowl which contains no fewer than six socks.

  4. As if, because you are a stranger lost in your own city, you could only meet other strangers; as if, because you are alone, you had to watch as all the other loners swooped down on you. As if only those who never speak, those who talk to themselves, could ever meet up, just for the time it takes to drink a glass of red wine at the same bar. The old lunatics, the old lushes, the cranks, the exiles.

  5. NOW YOU HAVE RUN OUT of hiding places. You are afraid and you are waiting for everything to stop, the rain, the hours, the stream of traffic, life, people, the world; waiting for everything to collapse, walls, towers, floors and ceilings; waiting for men and women, old people and children, dogs, horses, birds, to fall, one by one, to the ground, paralysed, plague-ridden, epileptic; waiting for the marble to crumble away, for the wood to turn to pulp, for the houses to collapse noiselessly, for diluvian rains to dissolve the paintwork, pull apart the dowel-joints in hundred-year-old wardrobes, tear fabrics to shreds, wash away the newspaper ink; waiting for a fire without flames to consume the stairs; waiting for the streets to subside and split down the middle to reveal the gaping labyrinth of the sewers; waiting for rust and mist to invade the city.

  6. Sometimes, you dream that sleep is a slow death creeping up on you, an anaesthesia at once sweet and fearful, a blissful necrosis: the chill climbs gradually up your legs, up your arms, numbing you slowly, slowly wiping you out.

  7. What secrets do you expect to find in your cracked mirror? And what truth in your face?

  8. You may have pretended to forget time, you may have spent nights walking and days sleeping. But you couldn’t ever quite get away with it.

  9. Indifference has not made you any different.

  10. You are not dead. You have not gone mad.

  11. Look! Look at them. Posted like silent sentinels by the river, along the embankments, all over the rain-washed pavements of Place Clichy, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries, waiting for the sea-spray, for the breaking waves, for the raucous cries of the sea-birds.

  12. Time had passed, time had fled; an era was over; peace had returned, a peace they had never known; the war came to an end.

  13. They felt neither joy, nor sadness, nor even boredom, but they did wonder sometimes if they still existed, if they really existed.

  14. Their life was like an unrelinquished habit, an almost unruffled tedium: a life sans everything.

  15. It now seemed to them that before - and each day, that before receded further into the past, as if their anterior life was falling slowly into the domain of legend, of the unreal, or of the shapeless - before, they had had at least a passion for possessing. Often it was wanting that had been all their existence. They had felt drawn towards the future, impatient, consumed with desire.

  16. And then what? What had they done? What had happened?