By Susan Harris
In the spirit of our PerecFest, I recommend Juan Filloy’s Op Oloop, published last summer by Dalkey Archive in Lisa Dillman’s ingenious translation. The title chimes with upending as well as with Oulipo, both appropriate cognates for Filloy’s ludic acrobatics.
Filloy spoke seven languages, created over six thousand palindromes, used only seven letters in the titles of his books, and lived in three centuries, dying in 2000 at the age of 106—a description worthy of his creation Optimus Oloop, a Finnish statistician living in Buenos Aires. Oloop, the ultimate method man, lives on a rigid schedule—“Op Oloop was entirely incapable of any impromptu act that might violate the pre-established norms of his routine” —and a timetable straight fromMussolini’s trains; a minor delay throws him off the grid and into chaos.
Op Oloop has, to his surprise and dismay, fallen in love: “The miracle of love has plotted the definitive sabotage of my spirit. I note intolerable obstacles, steel traps that make my psychological gears slip and destroy the harmonious mechanics of my system. It's deplorable”; he struggles to reconcile his precise nature with the vagaries of emotion (“I like you just the way you are: Height: 162 centimeters; neck: 32.4 centimeters; bust: 82 centimeters . . .”). Late for his own engagement party, he falls into a reverie when he realizes he has arrived at 10:04 on April 22—22:04 on 04/22; but this is the last gasp of the rational man. “We’ve heard his heart explode,” observes a friend. “Perfection shot to pieces.”
Chockablock with neologisms (“They’ll never abelardize us!”) and word play (he refers to France’s “three great clods”: Bernard, Monet, and Debussy), this pre-Oulipoian (Oloopian?) romp is a must read for lovers of Perec, and a fine introduction to this dazzling writer.
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