Monday, August 08, 2022

Dominoes (Georges Perec)

Before the former child star Olivia Rorschach sets off on one of her frequent trips, she leaves instructions for her au pair, Jane Sutton, one sentence of which reads "Buy cooked Edam for Polonius and don’t forget to take him once a week to Monsieur Lefèvre for his domino lesson." Perec appends an explanatory footnote:
Polonius is the 43rd descendant of a pair of tame hamsters which Rémi Rorschach gave Olivia as a present shortly after he met her: the two of them had seen an animal-trainer at a Stuttgart music hall and were so impressed by the athletic exploits of the hamster Ludovic – disporting himself with equal ease on the rings, the bar, the trapeze, and the parallel bars – that they asked if they could buy him. The trainer, Lefèvre, refused, but sold them instead a pair – Gertrude and Sigismond – which he had trained to play dominoes. The tradition was maintained from generation to generation, with each set of parents spontaneously teaching their offspring to play. Unfortunately, the previous winter an epidemic had almost wiped out the little colony: the sole survivor, Polonius, could not play solo, and, worse, was condemned to waste away if he was prevented from indulging in his favourite pastime. Thus he had to be taken once a week to Meudon to his trainer, who, though now retired, continued to raise little circus animals for his own amusement.

Life A User's Manual (translation by David Bellos)

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