Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Never Odd or Even- Crab Inscriptions

Asteroid 2005 YU55 has just passed within 202 000 miles of the centre of the earth which may explain those red tendrils all over the kitchen. It's an impressive lump of space rock but it carries a name that is hard to make an imaginative connection with. Asteroid 2817, however, discovered in 1982, was named after french writer, Georges Perec. I've just finished reading his extraordinary novel 'Life a user's manual' (La Vie mode d'emploi) which I found in a Summertown Oxfam. 

Perec set himself bizarrely complex constraints to his writing such as using a version of the 'Euler Square' to determine the contents of the chapters in 'Life'. His novel 'La Disparition', and the english translation, omit the letter E, the most common letter in french and english. Apparently there is a spanish translation which omits A instead as that is the most common letter in spanish. Reading about it reminded me of E Prime, the version of english which omits all forms of the verb 'to be'. Consider what E Prime translations of political and religious speeches would sound like...

Georges Perec also wrote a book in which E was the only vowel used and composed a 5556 letter palindrome. 

It was Ben Jonson who came up with the word palindrome. Before that, the ancient greeks called them 'Crabs' or 'Crab Inscriptions'. A famous latin palindrome, 'In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni' translates as 'We go wandering at night and are consumed by fire' and is understood as a reference either to moths or insomniac spontaneous human combustees- in either case it is gratifying in that it makes sense. 

After a conversation with a soapstone salesman in a market in Helsinki, Gospodin Stotinki was inspired to undertake a palindromic world tour and, while on a train from Laval to the island of Krk, he began work on a palindromic novel. As his creation unfurled from its central axis, he was disturbed to find that the inspired and spiritually uplifting prose with which the novel began was mirrored by an ever more violent and obscene conclusion and, in panic, he hurled the incomplete notebooks containing it into the sea and cut short his tour with a flight to Yreka, California. On entering the town's bakery he realised that he had yet to escape the crab's clutches.

This was the bread product that had drawn him into the Yreka Bakery, and coincidentally it appears when searching the internet for images of Georges Perec.

No comments:

Post a Comment