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Georges Perec: Quel petit vélo à guidon chromé au fond de la cour? (Which Moped with Chrome-plated Handlebars at the Back of the Yard?)

Karamanlis – or is that his name? Anyway, Kara-something or other is called up for the Algerian War but he doesn’t want to go. So Henri Pollack, who is in the same regiment but is exempt from going to Algeria, gets a bunch of friends together to get Karawhatever out of his Algerian obligations. Perec tells a witty tale around this group of friends with Kara- changing his name at every occurrence and their crackpot efforts to help him not go. It’s short, it’s witty, it’s full of authorial asides and it even has an index of the rhetorical devices it uses and you can see why the French critics were somewhat bemused after reading the more conventional Les Choses: Une histoire des années soixante (Things: A Story of the Sixties) to read this far less conventional work. But in the half an hour or so it will take you to read it, you will enjoy it much more.

Publishing history

First published in French 1966 by Denoël
First published in English 1996 by Harvill in a collection called Three