In Word of Mouth: What We Talk about When We Talk about Food (2014), Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson discusses “food fears,” recognizing how food can be both a source of sustenance and pleasure and, at the same time, a site of danger and death. In this article, I endeavor to show how Ferguson’s “food fears” can elucidate Perec’s rewriting of Proust’s madeleine episode. I sketch this out in La Disparition (1969) and W ou le souvenir d’enfance (1975), before focusing on La Vie mode d’emploi (1978). While Proust’s madeleine episode concerns both the evocative power of food and its capacity to conjure memories in the protagonist, in Perec, food and memories are often missing altogether. Certain artistic projects in La Vie mode d’emploi also fail or falter, with the notable exception of Perec’s own book. Thus, whereas food conjures abundance, pleasure, and memories in Proust, in Perec it has no such power, standing instead as a marker of loss, trauma, and forgetting. If the madeleine is a kind of comfort food, Perec’s anti-madeleine is a site of discomfort, a surrogate for all the other losses Perec is trying to account for, and through his insistence on the absence of food, he evokes the personal and collective trauma of the Holocaust.

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