Written without ever using the letter ‘e’, La Disparition [A Void, 1969] is a novel in which Georges Perec attempts to give a form to absence by subtracting from the text the element that the narrator, the characters and the puzzled readers are unknowingly after. Throughout the book, the missing element is everywhere: in the oddness of language, in the discomforting way of reading, in the detective storyline – all locked up in the loop of the ‘e’, shaped as ‘a sort of parabola, not fully confocal in form and fanning out into a horizontal dash’.1 The paradoxical idea that...