In the work of Georges Perec, the novel W or the Memory of Childhood (1975) is an attempt, halfway between autobiography and detective novel, to reveal the greatest enigma of the existence of the writer, namely the tragic fate of his mother who was deported to Auschwitz from where she would never return. In order to be able to outline the ignominy of the concentration camps, Perec refers to a story that he himself had invented during his childhood: one on the island of W. Based on the Olympic ideal, its residents are athletes who must endure a series of inhuman challenges. The monstrous dystopia of the Island of W thus echoes the historical facts of the Second World War, which directly affected Perec, although he did not witness them in person. In the perspective of a study of the island of W, the concept of heterotopia forged by Michel Foucault will set the theoretical perspective for this work. This article will also analyze how the places – both the spaces of the everyday life and heterotopias, other spaces which very often play an allegorical role (Ellis Island, to which Perec dedicated a book, is also an example), as the island of W does – occupy a prominent place in Perec’s works. This stresses out the metonymic power generated by the creation of spaces, whether entirely invented or borrowed from reality, since they always tell something other than merely showcase themselves and install a mirror game between fiction and reality.
heterotopia, dystopia, space, childhood, concentration camps.