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279 language/english/spelling/lipograms.p




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This article is from the Puzzles FAQ, by Chris Cole chris@questrel.questrel.com and Matthew Daly mwdaly@pobox.com with numerous contributions by others.

279 language/english/spelling/lipograms.p


What books have been written without specific letters, vowels, etc.?

language/english/spelling/lipograms.s

Such a book is called a lipogram.

A novel-length example in English (omitting e) exists, titled _Gadsby_.

Georges Perec wrote a French novel titled _La Disparition_ which does
not contain the letter 'e', except in a few bits of text that the
publisher had to include in or on the book somewhere -- such as the
author's name :-). But these were all printed in red, making them
somehow ``not count''.

Perec also wrote another novel in which `e' was the only vowel.

In _La Disparition_, unlike _Gadsby_, the lipogrammatic
technique is reflected in the story. Objects disappear or become
invisible. We know, however, more or less why the characters can't
find things like eggs or even remember their names -- because the
words for them can't be used.

Amazingly, it's been ``translated'' into English (by Harry Mathews, I
think).

Another work which manages to [almost] adhere to restrictive
alphabetic rules while also remaining readable as well as providing
amusement and literary satisfaction (though you have to like
disjointed fiction) is _Alphabetical Africa_ by Walter Abish. The
rules (which of course he doesn't explain, you can't help noticing
most of them) have to do with initial letters of words. There are 52
chapters. In the first, all words begin with `a'; in the second, all
words begin with either `a' or `b'; etc, until all words are allowed
in chapter 26. Then in the second half, the letters are taken away
one by one. It's remarkable when, for instance, you finally get `the'
and realize how much or little you missed it; earlier, when `I' comes
in, you feel something like the difference between third- and
first-person narration. As one of the blurbs more or less says (I
don't have it here to quote), reading this is like slowly taking a
deep breath and letting it out again.

----
Mitch Marks mitchell@cs.uchicago.edu

 

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