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The Hypothalamus

Dreamed October 1971 by Georges Perec,
author of A Void, a novel lacking the letter E

It starts with a few harmless comments, but soon there's no denying it: there are several Es in A Void.
First one, then two, then twenty, then thousands!
I can't believe my eyes.
I discuss it with Claude.

You might think I'm dreaming.
Look again: no more Es.
But then again, yes, there's one, another, two more, and again, tons!
How did nobody ever notice?

Looking at neighbors through binoculars? One has the right to do so, so long as one respects special rules and confines one's observation to spatiotemporal sequences (as when one plays card games of patience).

I decide (still dreaming) to call this dream "the hypothalamus" because "thus is my desire structured." I should (in that case) have called it "the limbic system," which is a more pertinent term for all that refers to emotional behaviors.


This is Dream No.95 from Perec's La Boutique Obscure: 124 Dreams. Here Perec dreams his best-known book has massive errors. To me (a dreamer whose dreams often play jokes on me) this looks like a lexical joke his dream plays on Perec, much like the one(s) he played on his readers... followed by a separate dream, perhaps even a different REM period, about guiltlessly spying on the neighbors that slips into playing with strange phrases--the hypothalamus, my desire structured, the limbic system, emotional behaviors. Pompous, disconnected, nonsensical--after a first half that any reader who knows Perec has to laugh at.

Are the scenes linked? "My book is exposed as full of flaws, so... I get to expose my neighbors' flaws too!" But then why the final shift to polysyllabic non sequiturs?

Hmm. Lots of Perec's "dreams" (really records of a whole night's dreaming) have this peculiar ebb--first a clear, emotional main dream, then an afterdream of solemn nonsense or banality. I wonder... does an inner saboteur cook up these late scenes to undercut the earlier ones? "Dreams seem meaningful but aren't, so ignore the previous dream and its uncomfortable message!"

I may be wrong. But his pattern needs explaining.

--Chris Wayan

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