Finally coming to the end you have to sit back and wonder at the feat and also applaud the plot. With its twists and turns it only becomes clear at the end what has happened although justice is not forthcoming.
Anton Vowl never reappears nor does any chance that the curse that has followed him and his siblings will be avoided. A twisted case of sibling rivalry means that all those that are the children of two sons that were meant to have died are destined to be murdered. Not only were Haig and Vowl brothers but also Olga was their sister and Ottivani the policeman turns out to be a brother as well.
He dies revealing that the text contained not a single
But there follows a postscript with Perec admitting that he set out on the project partly as a bet to prove he could to a friend and then because he enjoyed the discipline that having to stick to a formula gave him. He expresses a feeling that is palpable in the text that unlike other stories he had written this one really did force him to be inventive in a different way.
“Initially I found such a constraint faintly amusing, if that; but I stuck to my guns. At which point, finding that it took my imagination down so many intriguing linguistic highways and byways, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, plunging into it again and again, at last giving up all my ongoing work, much of which I was actually about to finish.”
It is a strange book that doesn’t come together until the end and the void is the missing e but it is a work of real concentration. The best description of what it is all about comes from ones of the quotes Perec chooses to print over the last two pages:
“…should we retrieve the letter which has been lost or the sign which has been effaced, should we reconstruct the dissonant scale, we shall regain our authority in the world of the mind.”
Gerard De Nerval