Long ago, I was told to study a part of a short story. It was about a group of radical Canadians, and radio broadcasts. I want to ID that story, so I can find and study it again. It had a particularly odd fact, as a conundrum for cryptography: similar to this post, it did not contain (until now), any “E”.

  • What context did you study it in? High school? How long ago was this (to put a minimum age on the story)? – Riker Feb 3 at 20:09
  • Study? It was an experiment in 2005 to test a new cellphone repeater. 50 pairs of people in a room, establishing a call to each other, and then reading alternate paragraphs from a story that was provided to us, back and forth over the cellphones for about 5 minutes, and then on command everyone was told to be silent for 2 minutes, and then all to hang up at the same moment. Afterwards, we were told the text was from a story which was intentionally written without any words with E’s, to confound decryption, in response to a story in another language without that language’s common character. – AJNeufeld Feb 3 at 21:07
  • Ah, you used the word "study" in your first line, so that's what I interpreted. – Riker Feb 3 at 21:22
  • Ya, I intentionally tied one hand behind my back trying to write the post in a humorous way. “Study” was a bit of a stretch, for the first usage, although I stand by it for the second. – AJNeufeld Feb 3 at 21:29

I may have found the answer.

A Void, by Georges Perec Gilbert Adair

The first paragraph, found online here...

Today, by radio, and also on giant hoardings, a rabbi, an admiral notorious for his links to Masonry, a trio of cardinals, a trio, too, of insignificant politicians (bought and paid for by a rich and corrupt Anglo-Canadian banking corporation), inform us all of how our country now risks dying of starvation. A rumour, that's my initial thought as I switch off my radio, a rumour or possibly a hoax. Propaganda, I murmur anxiously—as though, just by saying so, I might allay my doubts—typical politicians' propaganda. But public opinion gradually absorbs it as a fact.

... mentions Canadian and radio. I’ll have to find a full copy to read to be sure, but it seems to have the voice I remember.

I guess I was wrong about it being a short story. 300 pages isn’t exactly short.

  • 1
    Oh, it's THIS one? I assumed it was some lesser-known E-missing story. "A Void" (English translation of "La Disparition") is one of the most famous Oulipo works. Just for fun :-) – Rand al'Thor Feb 4 at 7:52
  • 1
    Specifically that would be the English translation by Gilbert Adair, which is less close to the original than most translations are. I've never heard of any motivation related to cryptography, and it sounds unlikely: Perec loved playing games with words, so he had plenty of motivation already. Where did you hear about a connection with cryptography? It sounds like an urban legend. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 4 at 23:50
  • @Gilles It would have been a comment from the organizer of the cell-phone repeater test. Or confabulated from my own memories over the last 14 years. My apologies for the red herring. – AJNeufeld Feb 4 at 23:57

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