Georges Perec and the ‘e’


I discovered a book programme on Dutch TV. It’s called Brommeropzee (mopedonsea) after a Dutch short story. There are two presenters. Based on my brief observation, I would say: she is E for Empathy, he is E for Ego.

One item was an interview with Guido van de Wiel. He has previously translated Perec’s 1969 novel La Disparation (A Void) into Dutch – see the cover. Like the original, the text does not include a single vowel ‘e’.


In 1972 Perec published a companion piece Les Revenentes (The Exeter Text). In the interview Guido showed long lists of words containing only the vowel ‘e’. He has worked on this translation on-and-off for 12 years. The translation follows the original in form (lipogram) and content.


Brommeropzee issued a challenge to viewers: compose a coherent sentence of at least 10 and at most 30 words, using any consonant, but only the vowel ‘e’. Here is my sentence: De beleefde kreeft heeft even geleden en elders negeert de kwelder de heen-en-weer regen.


Translated: The polite lobster has suffered briefly and elsewhere the salt marsh ignores the to-and-fro rain. There are no rhyming sounds as in my Dutch original, but you get the flavour.


If you like a challenge, compose a (decent) sentence of words using only the vowel ‘e’ and send them to me via the Contact page. I’ll publish a selection in a few weeks.

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