These are difficult times, and perhaps you’re holding tight to your contracted hours and hoping that the downsizing finger doesn’t point your way. You are not considering approaching your head of department to submit a request for a raise. And so you would not look at the shelf and think: oh, that’s the self-help book for me. This is a good thing. Perec offers no guide for the eager.

George Perec’s The Art and Craft of Approaching your Head of Department to Submit A RequestFor A Raise tells the tale of a man’s decision and indecision as he worries and wonders and wanders around his office looking for the right time and the right way to ask Mr X for a pay raise. He visits Ms Wye at times. He pays attention to what was on the cafeteria menu. He hopes Mr X’s daughters are well and don’t have measles. He circumperambulates the office waiting for the right moment. This comes at “the two hundred and fifty-fifth bid” (2011:79) and it isn’t an instant success.

What I love about this piece is how all those moments of uncertainty that make up organisational life, all the things that go through your mind when you’re at work but not working, the posturing and the wondering and the positioning are brought into a formula of no/yes, 0/1, recursion and slight development. The book’s about the systems that lie within the messiness of living and working. It is prefaced and inspired by a flowchart illustrating computerised decision making produced by Perec’s fellow Oulipian, Jacques Perriaud. Perec makes ‘real’ the grey media of the flowchart adding the uncertainties, false steps and coincidences that make up a working life. Almost real: it’s a story with just one full stop.

Play the game yourself


  1. Perec, G (2011) The Art and Craft of Approaching your Head of Department to Submit A Request For A Raise, trans David Bellos. London: Vintage Books.