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the Complete Review
the complete review - reminiscences

I Remember

Georges Perec

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase I Remember

Title: I Remember
Author: Georges Perec
Genre: Reminiscences
Written: 1978 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 116 pages
Original in: French
Availability: I Remember - US
I Remember - UK
I Remember - Canada
Je me souviens - Canada
I Remember - India
Je me souviens - France
  • French title: Je me souviens
  • Les choses communes I
  • Collected between 1973 and 1977
  • Some previously published in les Cahiers du Chemin, January, 1976
  • Translated by Philip Terry
  • With an Introduction and Notes by David Bellos

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Our Assessment:

B : nicely done, interesting glimpses of Perec's life

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Spectator . 6/6/2020 Tom Payne
Wall St. Journal . 28/11/2014 Martin Riker

  From the Reviews:
  • "If Brainard's reminiscences are intimate and suggestive, Perec's may strike readers as geeky. (...) (M)ostly a joyous, if fragmented, summoning up of an already faded world. " - Tom Payne, The Spectator

  • "Unfortunately, despite the incredible vitality of Perecís writing in general, his I Remember turns out to lack the evocative power of Brainardís original. Partly this is because the memories Perec recounts draw upon a cultural history almost entirely unavailable to non-French readers; but the difference is also stylistic. Next to Brainardís intensely personal tableaux, Perecís numbered entries fall flat, and lack the spark and energy of an active mind remembering." - Wall Street Journal, Martin Riker

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       A short introductory note to Je me souviens [now finally availabe in English, as I Remember] explains that the title, form, and, to a certain extent, spirit of these texts were inspired by Joe Brainard's I remember. Each of the 480 pieces collected here -- most just a single sentence -- is written: "Je me souviens ..." ("I remember ..."), and they consist of short "souvenirs" -- personal and shared memories, the small (and large) things that are incidental in life, momentarily significant and then often practically (but not entirely) lost.
       They range from the utterly banal and everyday ("Je me souviens des trous dans les tickets de méro" ("I remember the holes in the Métro tickets")) to any number of people (from musicians to Yury Gagarin to "Christine Keeler et de l'affaire Profumo") to movies, periodicals, and books ("Je me souviens de How to be an alien et de How to scrape skies, de Georges Mikes").
       In a brief afterword Perec explains that most of the memories come from when he was between the ages of ten and twenty-five (though there are a few more recent ones scattered in). Not everything, he admits, is correctly recalled -- but then that's the way memory works, distorting over time.
       The 480 entries don't add up to a complete picture of either Perec or an era, but, put together, they do reveal a good deal about what Perec was exposed to, interested in, and particularly aware of. These memories seem almost neutral -- snapshots, without commentary -- and yet there are enough of them for the reader to begin to flesh out the man behind them.

       Je me souviens is only a small piece of Perec-autobiography, but it is an appealing one, suggestive and whimsical. While of greatest interest to Perec-fans, it holds some interest for others too, sketching out French intellectual and artistic life in the two decades after World War II.

       Note that Je me souviens is dedicated to Harry Matthews; in a nice tribute, Mathews responded in kind with his collection of memories of Perec, in The Orchard (included in The Way Home).

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I Remember: Reviews: Georges Perec: OuLiPo: Joe Brainard: Other books by Georges Perec under review: Books about Georges Perec under review: Books translated by Georges Perec into French under review: Other books under review of interest:
  • See Index of Oulipo books under review
  • See also the Index of French literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       The great French writer Georges Perec (1936-1982) studied sociology at the Sorbonne and worked as a research librarian. His first published novel, Les Choses, won the 1965 Prix Renaudot. A member of the Oulipo since 1967 he wrote a wide variety of pieces, ranging from his impressive fictions to a weekly crossword for Le Point.

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