X’s

When I look at this picture, I see the bricks of the pathways of Highland Quad that I walk on every day going to and from classes and extracurriculars. What Perec would see though, is the X shape that the bricks make in relation to each other, and the way the spaces between the bricks almost make a backwards swastika shape.

The letter X is an important part of Perec’s memories in W. When he is recounting the memory he has of the sawhorse and the significance of the letter X in terms of the shape as well as the name of the structure (in French it is simply called an x), Perec describes how the letter X can be changed and added to in order to get a swastika (“by extending the branches of the X by perpendicular segments of equal length” (Perec 77)), a star of David, and the double-X shape used by Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator. The letter X clearly has significance to Perec as something that reminds him of the horrors of the Holocaust, and many of his memories are tainted by the X. The name of the fictional island he has created, W, is even a reminder of the Holocaust: in French, the letter W is “double-vé,” and the double V’s make an X if they are put point to point. Even when he remembers the adventures he had skiing, he remembers the “skis making a V shape and your sticks taking your weight behind you” (107). Perec’s memories are fraught with X’s, because he cannot escape his memories of the Holocaust.

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