February 7, 2011
Life-like reading list 1: Encyclopedia novels
Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec is selected as Conversational Reading's Spring 2011 Big Read. No weekly reading schedule yet, but it's supposed to start in early March.
In December I mentioned in my post on writers' top 10 that I received as book prize the corrected edition of Georges Perec's book in a contest where one was asked to submit a top ten list of books inspired by Georges Perec's Life A User's Manual. "Top 10 encyclopedia novels" is the one of two top 10 Life-inspired lists that I submitted. The list is inspired by the structure-architecture of Perec’s book, as well as by Roberto Bolaño’s influences in the writing of his novel Nazi Literature in the Americas. Perec's book is considered by Bolaño as one of the "five books" that marked his life.
These encyclopedia novels are made up of discrete topical entries arranged systematically (e.g., alphabetical) or subdivided thematically. I haven’t read all these books, but I’m familiar with them as I own or read some of them. The common theme that runs in some of these books is the "secret of evil." That is, they are usually inventories of bad people and/or their evil deeds. But any catalog of things can be an encyclopedia novel.
Top Ten Encyclopedia Novels
1. The Encyclopedia of the Dead by Danilo Kiš
2. The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce
3. A Universal History of Infamy by Jorge Luis Borges
4. A Perfect Vacuum by Stanisław Lem
5. Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolaño
6. The Temple of Iconoclasts by J. Rodolfo Wilcock
7. Zero by Ignácio de Loyola Brandão
8. The Atrocity Exhibition by J. G. Ballard
9. Imaginary Lives by Marcel Schwob (excerpt)
10. Dictionary of the Khazars by Milorad Pavic