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A Short Treatise Inviting the Reader to Discover the Subtle Art of Go

Pierre Lusson, Georges Perec, and Jacques Roubaud | Translated, with an introduction, by Peter Consenstein

Written by a mathematician, a poet, and a mathematician-poet (two of them foundational members of the Oulipo), this 1969 guide to the ancient Japanese game of go was not just the first such guide to be published in France (and thereby introducing the centuries-old game of strategy into France), but something of a subtle Oulipian guidebook to writing strategies and tactics. Go A User's Manual, or how a set of simple rules and constraints can lead not only to infinite complexities, but also an endless array of writing strategies and bad puns.

As in the Oulipian strategy of writing under constraint, the role of structured gameplay (within literature and without) proves to be of primordial importance: a means of moving outside an inherent system, of instigating new figures of style and meaning, new paths toward collaboration, and new strategies for filling a space: be it the space of a terrain, a blank page, a white screen, or a freshly stretched canvas.
This treatise outlines the history of Go, the rules for playing it, some central tactics and strategies for playing it and overcoming the threats posed by an opponent, general information and trivia, and a glossary that ranges from Atari (check) to Yose (the end of a match).

“Chess is indeed a war, but an institutionalized, regulated, coded war, with a front, a rear, battles. But what is proper to Go is war without battle lines, with neither confrontation nor retreat, without battles even: pure strategy, whereas chess is a semiology.”—Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari

Originally published by Christian Bourgois in 1969 with the title Petit traité invitant à la découverte de l'art subtil du go.

More information here.


Pierre Lusson is a French mathematician and musicologist. With Jacques Roubaud, he helped introduce the game of Go into France.

Georges Perec (1936–1982) was a French novelist, essayist, and filmmaker whose linguistic talents ranged from fiction to crossword puzzles to authoring the longest palindrome ever written. Winner of the prix Renaudot in 1965 for his first novel Things, and the prix Médicis in 1978 for his most acclaimed novel, Life A User's Manual, Perec was also a member of Oulipo, a group of writers and mathematicians devoted to the discovery and use of constraints to encourage literary inspiration. Perec famously entirely wrote his novel, A Void, without the letter “e.”

Jacques Roubaud is a French poet and mathematician, a former professor of Mathematics at University of Paris X, a retired Poetry professor from EHESS, and a member of the Oulipo group. His many books translated into English include The Great Fire of London, Some Thing Black, The Form of a City Changes Faster, Alas, than the Human Heart, and The Loop.

Peter Consenstein has been writing on contemporary French poetry, experimental literature, prosody, and the group Oulipo since the mid-1980’s and has now begun to translate. He wrote Literary Memory, Consciousness and the Group Oulipo and translated Dominique Fourcade’s IL (IT) and En laisse (On a Leash). Consenstein is a professor of French at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY).

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