the art and craft of approaching you head of department to submit a request for a raise by Georges Perec


the art and craft of approaching your head of department to submit a request for a raise by Georges Perec

French fiction

Original title – L’Art et la manière d’aborder son chef de service pour lui demander une augmentation

Translator – David Bellos

Source – library book

Well as you can tell by the title this book is a little different .I have previously review his most famous book a life a user manual , a novel that works inch by inch through an Parisian house and the people who live their .Perec was a member of the Oulipo movement that like to challenge the writing using various devices .This book is from one such challenge a French computer expert in the sixties want to see if Perec could write out the various routes of a flow chart he had produced  and make it readable here is the result .Yes this flow chart as you may guess from the title is a guide on what is the best way to ask for a pay rise .

Having carefully weighed the pros and cons you grid up your loins and make up your mind top go and see your head of department to ask for a raise so you go to see your head of department let assume to keep things simple – for we must do our best to keep things simple – that his name is mr Xavier

so mr x is mr xavier actually the opening lines of the book .

The story follows an unnamed employee as he wants to as his head of department for a raise .The Head Mr x is some one he doesn’t know well ,but through the course of the story as the various ways ,times ,day he could approach Mr x are discussed we see the narrator construct  a life for his head of department has he a daughter, or four what happens if they have argued .Thus we see a man worrying about getting a raise and try to pick the absolute best time to do this task ! we see him work outr evry possible combination of outcomes .

watch the cafeteria menu because if fish is on the menu your line manager could easily swallow a fish bone and thereafter be in a really awful mood which will not be in your favour

Another option is before or after lunch to ask ?


I have always admire the Oulipo movement as in many ways it is hard enough to write ,but stay different and creative with follow a strict framework is harder .I was reminded in this book of the recent short novel by fellow Oulipo movement member Italo Calvino the castle of crossed destinies   where he like Perec in this used a device in that case build the story around a grouping of tarrot cards ,where as Perec has used the various outcomes on the flow chart to be the thoughts the narrator has as he awaits the right point to discuss his raise .That is it a short book 75 pages long neat translation by Bellos .An unusual idea but it works Perec has pulled of the challenge he was given .

Have you a favourite Oulipo movement book ?

24 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Karlo Mongaya
    Jan 03, 2014 @ 00:41:04

    This sounds great. I always wanted to read more books by the Oulipo writers if not for my lack of access to their titles here in our place. But was able to get my hands into some Calvino and Perec’s A Void. The latter was a blast. An entire book written with no letter E. The English translation also done with no Es at all! Thanks for this briefer on this Perec novel. Makes me wanna read more of him. A Happy New Year!


  2. Lisa Hill
    Jan 03, 2014 @ 01:09:03

    This sounds wonderful, onto my wishlist it goes!
    (BTW, this is where GoodReads is brilliant for organising my books, I will enter this title there as a wishlist on my shelves so that I don’t forget it (and I usually remember to include the link to the review where I heard about it), and then when I have recovered financially from post-Christmas Mortifications, I go shopping!)


  3. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Jan 03, 2014 @ 12:20:36

    Personally, I love anything and everything by Calvino! I have Perec’s “Life” on Mount TBR and really *mus* read it!


  4. Brian Joseph
    Jan 03, 2014 @ 13:44:52

    The device used here sounds creative, intriguing and amusing. This sounds like something that I would like.

    I seem to recall from grade school that we were once given an assignment where we had to create flowcharts for all sorts of life activities.


  5. 1streading
    Jan 03, 2014 @ 21:23:47

    I’m a big fan of Perec and thought this was quite funny as well as clever. I see that there is a new Perec novel, Portrait of a Man, (discovered in a drawer) coming out in English this year!


  6. Emma
    Jan 04, 2014 @ 18:10:53

    It’s been made into a play and it will be on stage next May. I’m intrigued, I wanted to see it. The only thing that puts me off is that the show is followed by a discussion with a unionist.

    For the Oulipo movement, I like Exercice de style by Queneau.
    Contemporary Oulipo: Claro.


  7. Marie
    Jan 04, 2014 @ 19:28:05

    Wow, this sounds really interesting! I’ve never heard of the Oulipo movement but am definitely off to look into it a bit more now. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to write within those constraints.


  8. Max Cairnduff
    Jan 09, 2014 @ 15:20:27

    I have an unread Perec – Things I think it is, so I’ll be reading that before this. This did always sound like a fun and slightly absurd idea though which is always appealing.


  9. WordsAndPeace
    Jan 11, 2014 @ 05:51:29

    Exercices de style de Queneau and If By a Winter’s Night a Traveler -by Calvino


  10. Trackback: That was the month that was Jan 2012 | Winstonsdad's Blog
  11. Trackback: That was the month that was Jan 2014 | Winstonsdad's Blog

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January 2014


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