Thursday, January 27

Which Moped with the Chrome-Plated Handlebars at the Back of the Yard by Georges Perec

I can’t get enough of this story, I must have read it twice at least.  You need to have a couple of glasses of wine and relax with the terrifically bizarre prose.  Each sentence is a gem; the plot is secondary and the title a distant third (yes there is a moped in it, but so what!?)

Ok, so who is it about?

“There was once this character called Karamanlis.  Or something like that: Karawak?  Karawash?  Karapet?  Well anyway, Karathingy.  It was a weird enough name, whatever it was, a name that rang bells, that stuck in your mind.”

The story revolves this character’s aversion to being sent out to the French-Algerian war with his unit, “wobbling under the weight of Aribicidal paraphanalia”.

He asks Henri Pollack, his friend and sergeant, and Pollack asks the narrator and his crew to help out. The narrator is portrayed as one of a group of radical and unrealistic intellectuals:

“The fully-skimmed cream of the French intelligentsia.”

They resolve to break the man’s arm, a plan for which enthusiasm quickly wanes, and while getting extremely drunk, they weigh up their options.  Tell the truth?  Run over his foot and break it?  Give him drugs to make him crazy?  Kick him out and abandon the whole project?

Filled with non-sequiturs and blatant contradictions (“Karastein was an individual whose slight build did not spoil a certain burliness”),  the experimentalist Perec seems to break all the rules of writing at every turn, yet the overall effect is of an exuberant energy which makes you want to laugh out loud at the audacity of it, or at the very least read on with a silly grin across your face.

Will Karabungo avoid being packed off in the troop train?  You would almost rather not find out, keep drinking the wine and, like the characters, just stick on another Lester Young record and not worry about it.


  1. Sounds good... I'm enjoying both your blogs - off to get a copy of Ken Robinson's book...
    happy reading and happy writing!

  2. Thanks Vanessa, I hope you like it, I think it's a great read so far. I also loved Short Circuit :)