I'm a fan of 'constrained writing' - setting rules to push the creative process (sometimes unconsciously) in certain directions. It's weirdly liberating. So I thought I'd post this to test the water and see if anyone else on the Word Cloud is similarly smitten with all things Ouliipo, 'Pataphysics and Dada. Georges Perec, one of my favourite authors, famously wrote La Disparition (translated as 'A Void' in English) without using the letter 'e' - this may be the example par excellence of the genre. Just as an exercise, I thought I'd have a go at emulating the master, by trying to write the same mini-story in five different versions, each one lacking one of A, E, I, O and U. Here goes with the 'A-less' version. Any comments very welcome, and if there's anyone out there with the same kind of interests, do get in touch!
Dusk found me finishing dinner with my love. We were quietly, possibly smugly, discussing the splendid week just gone. Our life together seemed blessed. We worked little: our riches flowed effortlessly from out-sourced business ventures, so we could spend long stretches of free time with cultured, witty friends, or visiting new, exotic countries. We were beyond content, sure of our well-being for ever more. Children? Clever, polite, successful. Sound in mind, body, spirit? You bet. Sex? Never better!
But just when my gorgeous wife offered to tidy up the detritus of our supper (including some very fine, still tempting brie), just when the evening light turned to the colour of glowing crème brulee, I experienced the most unexpected moment of self-doubt. Quite unbidden, shocking, overwhelming … unlike every crise d’esprit of my misspent youth, nothing like the first few months of my business life, when I often found myself wondering if I would ever succeed. This time, my soul seemed upended, injured, possibly doomed; I felt like some nervous circus tumbler whose dodgy rope might give out if he put one foot wrong. One moment, cheerfully viewing the bucolic scene; the next, terrified of the cliff edge.
I pulled myself upright on the bench of the dining set, the better to get some oxygen into my lungs, to give voice to this moment of profound shock. Celine looked over, registering my sudden mood swing with tender concern.
“Simon, my love,” she whispered, “You look white. Could you be ill?”
“It’s … it’s …,” I stuttered, “it’s … the weirdest thing. Just when you spoke, when I listened to your voice, I felt suddenly sure of something … something is terribly wrong.” I shivered briefly. “I do feel odd, but it’s in my mind, not my body. I’m possessed by the strongest conviction of something missing – something of the highest import. I’m trying to express it, but it eludes me.”
“Well,” replied Celine, “I’ll do my best to help. Were you thinking of something to do with us, or concerning the children? Your mother?”
“No. My only thought, just before you offered to do the dishes, now seems so ridiculous. I kept looking over the cheeses, wondering if I should scoff some more. If I could, even. Then zowee: complete shift of psyche.”
I spent the next hour or so trying to rediscover my equilibrium, with Celine doing her best to support me. But with bedtime beckoning, with the night upon us, I knew, somehow: this would be for ever.