While exploring the island—its history, its buildings, its leftovers—Perec identifies Ellis Island as a non-place, an isle of tears, and reveals Emma Lazarus’s metaphor of America’s ‘golden door,’ which is emblazoned upon the Statue of Liberty, to be little but a false promise.
Frieze

A moving hybrid work about Ellis Island and immigration by the marvelous Georges Perec

Available February 2, 2021

Ellis Island

Nonfiction by Georges Perec

Translated from the French by Harry Mathews

With a contribution by Mónica De La Torre

Georges Perec, employing prose meditations, lists, and inventories (of countries of origin, of what the immigrants carried), conjures up in Ellis Island the sixteen million people who, between 1890 and 1954, arrived as foreigners and stayed on to become Americans. Perec (who by the age of nine was an orphan: his father was killed by a German bullet; his mother perished in Auschwitz) is wide-awake to the elements of chance in immigration and survival: “To me Ellis Island is the ultimate place of exile. That is, the place where place is absent, the non-place, the nowhere… Ellis Island belongs to all those whom intolerance and poverty have driven and still drive from the land where they grew up.” Ellis Island is a slender Perec masterwork, unique among his many singular works.

The acclaimed poet and scholar Mónica de la Torre contributes an afterword that keeps Perec’s writing front and center while situating Ellis Island in the context of current fierce battles over immigration.

Buy from:

Paperback (published February 2, 2021)

ISBN
9780811229548
Price US
11.95
Trim Size
4.5x7.25
Page Count
64

Ebook (published October 27, 2020)

ISBN
9780811229555
Page Count
64
While exploring the island—its history, its buildings, its leftovers—Perec identifies Ellis Island as a non-place, an isle of tears, and reveals Emma Lazarus’s metaphor of America’s ‘golden door,’ which is emblazoned upon the Statue of Liberty, to be little but a false promise.
Frieze
The lyric study of Ellis Island is a mournful counterfactual about what might have been had his parents—and many others—made it across the ocean. If Perec took pride in not repeating himself, it did not stop him from returning, as if in an elliptical orbit, to the same obsessions: police states, citizens going missing, organized brutality, human fragility
The New Yorker