January 1, 1970
Daniel Levin Becker in conversation with Scott Esposito at City Lights (San Francisco)
In La Boutique Obscure Perec once again revolutionized literary form, creating the world’s first “nocturnal autobiography.” From 1968 until 1972 — the period when he wrote his most well-known works — the beloved French stylist recorded his dreams. But as you might expect, his approach was far from orthodox. Avoiding the hazy psychoanalysis of most dream journals, he challenged himself to translate his visions and subconscious churnings directly into prose. In laying down the nonsensical leaps of the imagination, he finds new ways to express the texture and ambiguity of dreams — those qualities that prove so elusive. Beyond capturing a universal experience for the first time and being a fine document of literary invention, La Boutique Obscure contains the seeds of some of Perec’s most famous books. It is also an intimate portrait of one of the great innovators of modern literature.
Georges Perec (1936-1982) was a French novelist, filmmaker, documentary maker and essayist. In death he remains a member of Oulipo, the workshop of potential literature. He is most famous for the novels Life: A User’s Manual and A Void.
Daniel Levin Becker is the youngest member of Oulipo, and only the second American to ever be so honored. He is a writer, translator and music critic, and reviews editor of The Believer. He is the author Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature (Harvard 2012).
Scott Esposito’s criticism has appeared in Bookforum, the Los Angeles Times, the Review of Contemporary Fiction, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The National, The Point, Tin House, The Paris Review Daily, and numerous others. He has also written introductions to novels for the Dalkey Archive Press and Melville House Publishing. He is the editor of online publications for San Francisco’s Center for the Art of Translation and has been a consultant on translated literature for presses including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McSweeney’s, Graywolf, and Open Letter. He is also the editor in chief for The Quarterly Conversation, an online periodical of book reviews and essays. He is the co-author, with Lauren Elkin, of The End of Oulipo: An attempt to exhaust a movement from Zero Books.