“Along with a poorly identified person (maybe my aunt), I am visiting a sort of colonial trading post. At the very back of one room we come upon a gigantic puzzle… it’s of a Renaissance painting… close up, though, you realise the whole thing is a puzzle: the puzzle itself (the painting) is but a fragment of a larger puzzle, unfinished because it can’t be finished… there are, if not an infinite number, at least an extremely large number of possible combinations.” Dream #114 - La Boutique Obscure
What are dreams for? Elliptical, intimate, (seemingly) significant; from predicting the future to returning the repressed, these least fathomable experiences have always had an interpretive function laid on them.
A similar question lies at the heart of the Oulipo, the Euro-French literary club founded in 1960, which Georges Perec joined in 1967. The movement replaced its Surrealist antecedents' espousal of 'chance’ - “Pure psychic automatism by which it is intended to express, either verbally or in writing, the true function of thought.” - with the application of mathematical ‘constraints’ in order to create 'potential literatures’, not all of which are, or are capable of being, realised. The Oulipo’s ideological aims - perhaps uniquely for a twentieth century art movement - are less clearly stated and vary from practitioner to practitioner. Its problem might be, as Lauren Elkin and Scott Esposito have recently suggested, that it is a literally ‘end-less’ literature. Does it matter if Oulipian texts 'mean' anything, have a purpose, or even sound good?
If you're just dying to know the answer, read the rest here.