Reading Perec’s sections on the island, W, have reminded me of my own days of being an athlete. While this photo is merely of my co-ed intramural soccer team from last year, I actually played competitive soccer for thirteen years before college. Being a soccer player was part of my identity and took up an enormous portion of my time on a daily basis. Playing at such a competitive level for such a long time taught me many different things over the years, but some of the most important values include persistence, dedication, and responsibility. I also learned how important it is to be a team player, win and lose graciously, and maintain balance in life.
While Perec’s discussion of W certainly demonstrates a life centered on sports and competition, I find nearly all of these important values to be missing on this island. He talks of winners mocking losers into completing humiliating and painful runs wearing their shoes backwards on their feet. He suggests that winning is desired at any price and that the weak are intentionally singled out from the strong. In addition, he suggests that athletes are incapable of maintaining responsible behavior when faced with the temptation of gorging themselves on a winner’s buffet, thus maintaining that “athletes almost never win twice in a row” (92). I could not disagree more with the ideals associated with this athletic island of competition. In addition, I find that it undermines the tremendous character found in so many athletes I know. Winning is often the end goal, yes, but not at any price and certainly not only for a day at a time. Winning championships takes great responsibility and dedication and athletes cannot lose focus after winning one single game, as Perec’s athletes appear to on W. I’ve struggled to fit in the sections concerning the W with the other portions of this novel and the tone of these sections is extremely bothersome to me. What is Perec getting at by insinuating such a harsh and unrealistic culture of competition? How does this fit in with his own life experiences? Did his experiences skiing not contradict what he writes about life on W? These are questions which have been sparked within me as I have read.