Some people relish a challenge. Ernest Vincent Wright was one of those people, as his 1939 novel “Gadsby” proved.
The book seems like a short novel by contemporary standards; at about 50,000 words, it is in keeping with books of the era but roughly half the size of most fiction being published today. What it does with those words, however, is impressive. Nowhere in the body of the novel does Wright use the letter “e”.
No use of the article “the”. Few past tense verbs, so as to avoid using the suffix “-ed”. No responses of “Yes”.
The style of work is known as a lipogram, a piece from which one or more letters is excluded. Shorter lipograms are regularly produced by authors, but a novel without an E was unique for thirty years. That’s when it was equalled by a French novel, La Disparition by Georges Perec, who admitted in interviews that he had been directly inspired by Gadsby and Wright’s masterpiece of tricky literature.
Not to be outdone, Perec’s book was translated into English twenty-five years later by Gilbert Adair. It was renamed “Void“, and the translation managed to not just change the language from French to English, it managed to do so, once again, without using the letter E.
Question of the night: What is your least favorite novel?