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Lipogrammatic Works of Fiction
Below, you will find a list of ancient and modern lipograms in a variety of languages. Some of these references were found in The Book of Lists 3 by David Wallechinsky, Irving Wallace and Amy Wallace (Corgi: 1983). If you know of any other lipogrammatic works of fiction, or have any comments on those listed below, please contact me.
Ernest Vincent Wright - Gadsby (1939)
Wright's 50,000 + word novel Gadsby was written entirely without the letter E. While no one claims that it's a great work of fiction, it's said to be decently well-written. Wright, who penned Gadsby in 165 days at the age of 67, apparently did it just to prove it could be done. To ensure that no errant "E" slipped by him, Wright tied down the E key on his typewriter. Alas, Wright died on the day of the book's publication - perhaps due to the stress and strain of its composition?
Georges Perec - La Disparition (1969)
La Disparition is without a doubt one of the best known lipograms, and is even more remarkable insofar as it was translated into English by Gilbert Adair under the title A Void. While I don't have an accurate word count for the book, I estimate it to be around 100,000, give or take a few thousand, making it around double the size of Gadsby, next in terms of size. La Disparition is a tale of Anton Voyl, a man who disappears shortly after noticing a nagging omission in reality that he just can't put his finger on, and whose friends search for him throughout the novel. The book is full of wordplay, self-reference, and lipogrammatic parodies of other works, making it by far one of the most interesting lipograms you will ever come across.
Mark Dunn - Ella Minnow Pea (2000)
This recent book, described as a "progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable", is a politically savvy allegory and a wickedly funny read. It is communicated by a series of letters and notes (the 'epistolary' aspect) written by the citizens of the island of Nollop (an independent state off the coast of South Carolina). Dunn's brilliant insight is to use the progressive loss of letters throughout the book to comment on freedom of speech and its endangerment as we lose the tools necessary for its exercise.
Christian Bök - Eunoia (2001)
Eunoia is the shortest word in the English language to contain all five regular vowels. It is also the title of an extraordinarily clever book of univocalic poetry. Bök (pronounced 'book') is an avant-garde Canadian poet, and in this Griffin Prize-winning offering, he presents a set of hyper-constrained univocalics whose tone, wit and linguistic devilry are quite mind-boggling. Though much shorter than La Disparition, it is certainly comparable to it in terms of literary quality and inventiveness.
Gyles Brandreth - Shakespearean lipograms
Brandreth is a modern British lipogrammatist and master of wordplay who has rewritten a number of Shakespeare's more famous plays, dropping different letters from each. As far as I know, he has written Hamlet without any Is, Macbeth without As or Es, Twelfth Night without L or O and Othello without any Os.
A. Ross Eckler - Lipogram nursery rhymes
Eckler is a poet and author who rewrites famous nursery rhymes in lipogrammatic fashion. His best-known work is his rewriting of "Mary had a little lamb", with five separate lipogrammatic versions omitting the letters S, A, H, E and T respectively.
Tryphiodorus - Odyssey
The greek poet Tryphiodorus wrote his epic poem Odyssey, chronicling the adventures of Ulysses, excluding a different letter of the alphabet from each of the 24 books. Thus, the first book was written without alpha, the second without beta, and so on.
Peter de Riga - Summary of the Bible (16th century)
Peter de Riga, a 16th century French clergyman (he was canon of Rheims Cathedral fo a time) wrote a summary of the Bible in which a different letter of the alphabet was excluded from each of the 23 chapters of his opus.
Lope De Vega Carpio (1562-1635) - Novels
De Vega Carpio was Spain's first great playwright (he is said to have written 2200 plays, though this figure is almost certainly wildly exaggerated). He also wrote five lipogrammatic novels, however, each one omitting one of the five vowels.
Gottlob Burmann (1737-1805)
Burmann was an eccentric (read: insane but rich) German Romantic poet whose dislike for the letter R was so great that not only did he write 130 poems without using that letter, but he also sought to exclude it from his everyday conversation, which means, if we believe the story, that he also refused to speak his own name for 17 years.
Jacques Arago - Voyage Autour du Monde Sans La Lettre A (1853)
Arago, a 19th century French author, wrote his Voyage Autour du Monde Sans La Lettre A in 1853. Thirty years later, however, he confessed that a single word - "serait" - had spoiled his nearly perfect endeavour.
I hope you have found this site to be useful. If you have any corrections, additions, or comments, please contact me. Please note that I am not able to respond to all requests. Please consult a major dictionary before e-mailing your query. All material on this page © 1996-2014 Stephen Chrisomalis. Links to this page may be made without permission.