Cover image for "53 days"
"53 days"
Perec, Georges, 1936-1982.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
53 jours. English
First American edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : David R. Godine, 2000.

Physical Description:
258 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm.
General Note:
Originally published: London : Harvill, 1992.
Reading Level:
1370 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Georges Perec, the celebrated author of Life A User's Manual (Godine, 1987), was working on this "literary thriller" at the time of his death. He had completed only 11 chapters of a planned 28, but left extensive drafts and notes supplying the rest of the mystery, as well as numerous twists and subplots. From these, Harry Mathews and Jacques Roubaud have assembled the elements of the unfinished mystery, along the way providing a fascinating view into the author's mind as he fashioned his literary conundrum.

Absorbing, allusive, and joyously playful, "53 Days" is the ultimate detective story. The narrator, a teacher in a tropical French colony, is trying to track down the famous crime-writer Robert Serval, who has mysteriously disappeared. Serval has left behind the manuscript of his last, unfinished novel, which may contain clues to his fate. From this beginning, Perec lures the reader into a labyrinth of mirror-stories whose solutions can only be glimpsed before they in turn recede around the corner.

In the tradition of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, Perec's "53 Days" is a supremely satisfying, engrossing, and truly original mystery. Like his previous work, it is also "a kaleidoscope of ingenious juxtapositions" (Le Monde) from one of the century's most inventive and important writers.

Author Notes

Georges Perec was born in Paris on March 7, 1936 and was educated in Claude-Bernard and Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire.

Perec was a parachutist in the French Military before he began publishing his writing in magazines like Partisans. Perec also wrote the book, Life: A Users Manual. Perec is noted for his constrained writing: his 300-page novel La disparition (1969) is a lipogram, written without ever using the letter "e". Perec won the Prix Renaudot in 1965, the Prix Jean Vigo in 1974, the Prix Médicis in 1978.

Georges Perec died on March 3, 1982.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Perec (Life, a User's Manual) had finished 11 of his planned 28 chapters in this murder mystery at the time of his death from cancer in 1982. Distinguished colleagues and fellow novelists Mathews and Roubaud, guided by Perec's voluminous notes and drafts, assembled this version of his complex literary thriller in 1989. Now translated into English, this novel/puzzle is an intellectual dragnet whose narrator is called upon by the French Consul to unravel the mystery of the disappearance of famous French crime-writer Robert Serval. The narrator must investigate in secret, armed with only a briefcase containing Serval's manuscript, called "The Crypt," which contains a story of love, murder and secret codes, set in the freezing Nordic country of Fernland. The narrator, meanwhile, lives in fictional French Grianta, a region of blisteringly hot weather. The collection of puzzling clues, which he decodes, recombines, and cross-references, are full of literary puns, acronyms, palindromes and equations. Conceived of in Chinese boxes, this novel leans heavily on its many references. The narrator and the reader are often abruptly referred to the works of Agatha Christie and Andr‚ Gide; and the title itself reflects the time it took Stendhal to write The Charterhouse of Parma. The narrator may or may not be distinct from author Perec, just as the framing novel may mirror, foil or illuminate the mystery of "The Crypt." By the end, Perec/the narrator has decided upon a solution, not to be confused with the truth, which, "barely touched upon, recedes into the distance." While the linguistic brainstorm, complete with its unorthodox format and formulae, may baffle, fans of Perec (who wrote his novel A Void completely omitting the letter "e") should anticipate that the "just the facts, ma'am" mode of detective novels will be ingeniously frustrated in his last work. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

i 53 Daysp. 1
Chapter 1 15 Mayp. 3
Chapter 2 Etampesp. 14
Chapter 3 The Cryptp. 22
Chapter 4 Counter-Enquiryp. 33
Chapter 5 Hypothesesp. 42
Chapter 6 Search for a Typistp. 49
Chapter 7 Lise Carpenterp. 54
Chapter 8 The Koala Case Mysteryp. 60
Chapter 9 The Black Handp. 66
Chapter 10 Mind in a Whirlp. 73
Chapter 11 Excavationsp. 82
Chapter 12 Frightening Thoughtsp. 91
Chapter 12

p. 94

Chapter 13

p. 99

II """"Un R Est UN M Qui Se P Le L De La R""""p. 103
III Draftsp. 127
Orange Exercise Bookp. 131
Rhodia Notepadp. 143
Blue Exercise Bookp. 159
Notepad on the Bedside Shelfp. 169
Notes on the Drafted Chaptersp. 171
White Exercise Book: Found on the Study Deskp. 172
Black Ring-Filep. 180
Other Notesp. 242
5 Notes on the Textp. 259
5 Notes on the Translationp. 260