Between the Ears on BBC Radio 3
BBC Radio 3, 8 December 2012
Written in 1968 by the late Georges Perec and newly translated by David
Bellos, The Art and Craft ..., is a prose imitation of flowchart, entirely devoid of punctuation and capital letters,
based on the premise that if you go to ask your boss for a raise, you might be faced with certain choices: should you go talk
to an enticing colleagues first, or check whether your boss swallowed a fishbone? Should you eat lunch? Or should you shy
away from the responsibility altogether and find an obscure department to burrow yourself away? The tale could best
be described as Kafkaesque, as well as being a humorous satire on corporate life, both in the 1960s as well as today.
Combining sounds, overlaid tracks, snatches of popular music as well as multitracked
narratives (by Alain Mayor), Diana Bird's version of the tale came across as a surrealist narrative, a combination of face-to-face
dialogue and imaginative fantasy. Listeners were left in an uncertain position; they did not know whether to rely on
what was being said, or to take some of the statements with the proverbial pinch of intellectual salt. But this was
precisely the point: in Perec's original narrative the lack of punctuation was deliberately designed to create a similar effect;
to render the reasonable unreasonable, and vice versa.
With something like this, I believe it's best to let it wash over you than trying
to make too much sense of it; after all, isn't corporate life likewise 'nonsensical' in many of its rituals?