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This excerpt is drawn from La Boutique Obscure: 124 Dreams by Georges Perec, in a new translation of Perec’s dream journal/“nocturnal autobiography” by Believer reviews editor Daniel Levin Becker (affectionately known around the office as D#). The book will be released tomorrow (February 19) by Melville House; our Bay Area neighbors should come out to City Lights Books tonight at 7 for a reading/rap sesh with Scott Esposito.

No. 86 (August 1971)

Decorated with medals

I have been designated to participate in an international conference (in Ireland or in the Netherlands) on authors’ rights. With C.B., director of the French delegation, I review the problem and talk about the other members of the commission, who are, for the most part, family members or friends of mine. Then there is a question of going, on our way back, to report on the conference to the President of the Republic. We recall, laughing, that we used to refuse to be part of the Presidential court. I ask C.B. if the President’s nickname is still “Lulu.” C.B. answers that he has no idea, but that “Lulu” is almost libelous.

With a (poorly identified) woman, J.L., and (a bit later) my aunt, I’ve been invited—or have dropped in without warning—to visit L. My aunt and J.L. have made it in, but the woman and I find ourselves on a little platform that turns out to be surrounded by a ditch filled with water. First we think there’s no water, because it’s covered in water lilies and lotuses, but there is, and lots of it. How to cross this ditch? It would be difficult to jump: in all probability we’d fall into the water before even taking off.

But here is a wooden bridge. The woman crosses it easily and lands in L.’s arms. He welcomes her, saying, “stay for dinner!” as though our impromptu visit hasn’t put him out at all and he even knew we were staying. Then he reaches his hand out to me to help me cross the bridge; and it’s good that he does, because the bridge is rotten and breaks the moment I step on it, but, thanks to his help, I do not fall into the water.

“O, precious symbolism!” I cry.

/ /

I discuss plans for the conference for a moment with J.L., and then with my aunt, who tells me she’s not going, as she feels too tired; that same day she took a walk with her granddaughter and came back exhausted.

L. does not look like himself. He has a beard. He looks more like Bernard P. would if Bernard P. grew a beard. His wife looks vaguely like Bernard P.’s wife.

On a picnic table there are papers, a pair of glasses, and the book L. was reading when we arrived. It is a volume from the Pléiade, open to a story entitled “Don B.,” or “Madame B.” Which reminds me of a Stendhal story.