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Life A User's Manual [Paperback]

Georges Perec
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 15 2008 1567923739 978-1567923735 2nd
"Originally published in French in 1978 as La Vie mode d'emploi by Editions Hachette Litterature, Paris"--T.p. verso.

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From Publishers Weekly

Though Perec (1936-1982) is "experimental" in the tradition of Joyce and Nabokov, his work is rich with word games and acrostics that reveal the secret life of language this euphoric novel, winner of the Prix Medicis, will enchant a range of readers. The serial storytelling within the framework narrative is as beguiling and inexhaustible as Scheherazade's. The facade is removed from a Parisian apartment house on the Rue Simon-Crubellier, permitting us to spy on its tenants in the grid of rooms and to examine their pictures and bibelots. Books, letters, clippings and announcements add to the textual welter, all interlocking like pieces of a puzzle, the novel's chief metaphor. Tales told in stylishly reinvented genres, romance, detection, adventure, constitute what is experienced, read about or dreamed up by an array of restaurateurs, mediums, cyclists, antique dealers and pious widows. A quester for the Nile tries to rescue a beautiful German girl from a harem. A judge's wife, whose sexually thrilling thefts result in a sentence of hard labor, ends as a bag lady on a park bench. Meanwhile a team of eccentric artists, Bartlebooth, Winckler and Valene, enact the creative process, painting watercolor seascapes, cutting them apart with a jigsaw and reassembling them as smoothly as "an oily sea closing over a drowning man." The image of a splendidly wrought table, its interior fretted by patient worms, succinctly and differently restates the process. This is a classic of contemporary fiction.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

"The eye follows the paths that have been laid down for it in the work," begins Perec's encyclopedic novel, which details everything, animate and inamimate, in an imaginary apartment house. His characters unfailingly do the least expected: Laurelle, killed at her own wedding by a falling chandelier; Ingeborn, who casts a white actor as Otello; Gregoire, fired from a vegetarian restaurant for pouring beef extract in the vegetable soup; a judge's wife sentenced to hard labor. The author reserves the greatest irony for Percival Bartlebooth, like himself an artist. Bartlebooth paints watercolors that are made into jigsaw puzzles, then reverses the process until he has a perfectly blank sheet. Creation and dissolution are the themes in this highly entertaining work, itself a puzzle. Lisa Mullenneaux, Iowa City, Iowa
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
This item has not yet been released and is not eligible to be reviewed. The reviews that are shown are from other formats of this item.
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I first read this book when I was 17, and have reread it more than once; I loved it the first time, and it gets better each time. Perec can be a bit frustrating, and the book is not necessarily the easiest to get into, but if you give it time, by the end you'll be absolutely hypnotised. What I love especially is his attention to small things, everyday things, insignificant things: these are, after all, what make up life, and by portraying them with such loving care, Perec creates something very beautiful indeed, something like a love-song for ordinary life (though this is not to say there is no drama in the book - there is).

If you read Bellos's wonderful biography, a lot of things in the book become clearer, but you don't actually need to follow the various tricks and games (I hadn't a clue when I first read it, but that didn't interfere with my enjoyment). Another reviewer compared Perec to Glenn Gould; it would be equally apt to compare this work, I think, to Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier (so wonderfully performed by Gould): both take the basic elements and carefully show how they are things of profound beauty.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seat Yourself At The Puzzle... June 29 2003
Format:Paperback
Perec would properly be regarded as an experimentalist and this novel, like his others, was written under self-imposed constraints.
The novel takes as its plan a block of flats in a Parisian suburb, a 10 x 10 grid, over which the narrator must proceed by way of the moves of the Knight in chess, never landing on the same flat twice(this, like other formalities, were allowed to be bent but let's not get too complicated...) with a whole system for information, knowledge and learning to be allocated to each chapter.
'So far, so what' might be the natural response to this were it not for the majesty of the finished novel.
Read in translation the writing is formal yet intimate and seems to proceed at its own leisurely pace as it moves through the block of flats, through life. Numerous 'Tales' are recounted as the novel progresses, each rich in feeling and poignancy though sometimes disturbing, the key of which, indeed the key to the novel, is 'The Tale of the Man who painted watercolours and had puzzles made out of them'. To go into detail would spoil the effect for other readers but this is about life, about a plan for life and ultimately a metaphor for life. And the making of this book.
I have to confess to a love for French literature generally. It seems possible to trace an organic progression and tradition (the blanket phrase that readily comes to mind is 'intellectual pessimism'...)through its history which is then disrupted every once in a while by an individual who rebels against that tradition (Rimbaud) or subverts it (Mallarme or Aragon). Perec, arguably, both is and is not of this tradition.
He is however, in the wider tradition of great literature. And seems to recognise this. 'Life...
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Georges Perec is a genius. This novel ranks among my top ten.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for every literary buff. April 22 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Manual, yes certainly manual labour is involved. I can acknowledge the intentions of Perecs structuring intellectually but was unable to translate this into an emotive or pleasurable response. The tone is distant and although the detail would suggest realism it is all just a pretext for a two dimensional jigsaw puzzle. Perhaps this is what you are seeking but such antiseptic games are not for me. It lacks both the humanity of Ulysees or the pure romance of The Flanders road to seek two books of comparable difficulty.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars breathtaking June 9 2004
Format:Paperback
So much has been written about the intricate mathematical structures of Perec's masterpiece that I have no reason to repeat them.
Perec's genius - and, contrary to what one reviewer has written, it's precisely his very human, and very warm and tender understanding of humanity that generates this - is his keen insight that everything contains a story, be it the postcard on the desk, or a particular painting on a wall, or a puzzle piece that just doesn't fit. Perec takes an apartment building and jumps from room to room, grabbing at these bits of minutae, following their backstories, and creating one of the most complex and beautiful mosaics of life that's ever been put into words. As each room yields its secrets, we see that a tiny apartment building in Paris really does contain the whole world - a huge swath of history, languages, peoples, and cultures; comedy, tragedy, mystery, and drama; personal and public; fiction and nonfiction; poetry, prose, lists, games, recipes, articles, signs, crossword puzzles...
Flip to the back and check out the index - it's intimidating, and yet - it's all there, in one building, waiting to be discovered and explored.
I can't comment on the translation, unfortunately - I've only read it in the original. But Perec's language is always tight, witty, and deeply insightful. This is certainly one of the great works of world fiction, and absolutely not to be missed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! A Must Have Life-Changing Book Aug. 18 2002
Format:Paperback
I read this book when it was first translated in the USA - I saw the title on a shelf in our library and couldn't resist it. A decade later, images from this unique novel still haunt me, and when asked that infamous desert island question - this is the one novel I would take with me. Read it. Savor it. And don't miss the linguistic jokes he has woven so brilliantly into his tapestry.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderous
This is a masterpiece.
Georges Perec is a master.
Read this book.
Read Void. (Why is void out-of-print -- a disgrace)
Read W or the Memory of Childh. Read more
Published on July 22 2002 by Peggy
5.0 out of 5 stars A LANGUAGE TECHNICIAN
THIS IS A REREADABLE BOOK. A MAN WHO WROTE THE LONGEST PALINDROME IN THE WORLD AND A 3000 WORD BOOK WITHOUT THE LETTER E CAN DO ANTHING WITH LANGUAGE AND PEREC DOES. Read more
Published on June 20 2002 by Daniel
5.0 out of 5 stars Space, time and detail
Perec switches dimensions: In an ordinary novel, the main dimension of movement is time - all movement in space and detail are derived from this movement in time. Read more
Published on Jan. 19 2002 by Svein Olav Nyberg
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
It took me 2 weeks of focused effort to read this book...it's quite a project. But it was well worth it. One of those great books that can teach you a great deal.
Published on Nov. 19 2001 by Gregg Horras
5.0 out of 5 stars A spellbinding masterpiece of experimental fiction.
If you read the first few pages of this book after seeing all the glowing reviews on Amazon, you may wonder what we are so excited about. Read more
Published on Oct. 2 2001 by Zeldock
5.0 out of 5 stars oulipan masterwork
Georges Perec constructed Life : A User's Manual in accord with a simple set of principles. Perec allowed these principles to trump the normal "laws" of how a novel... Read more
Published on July 18 2001 by Jeremy P. Bushnell
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly remarkable tapestery
The book presents a richly interwoven series of stories with complex, mind boggling intertwinings. The novel resembles a giant jigsaw puzzle with each piece bringing more insight... Read more
Published on Feb. 21 2001 by sivasu
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly unique and thoroughly rewarding...
Wonderful! I have come across a book that I can read and re-read every year and which will always delight, inspire and astound me. Read more
Published on June 12 2000 by Scott Pack
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