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Life: A User's Manual (1978)

by Georges Perec

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,113442,996 (4.26)1 / 228
Over twenty years ago, Godine published the first English translation of Georges Perec's masterpiece, Life A User's Manual, hailed by the Times Literary Supplement, Boston Globe, and others as "one of the great novels of the century." We are now proud to announce a newly revised twentieth anniversary edition of Life. Carefully prepared, with many corrections, this edition of Life A User's Manual will be the preferred reference edition for the future. Life is an unclassified masterpiece, a sprawling compendium as encyclopedic as Dante's Commedia and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and, in its break with tradition, as inspiring as Joyce's Ulysses. Structured around a single moment in time "€" 8:00 p.m. on June 23, 1975 "€" Perec's spellbinding puzzle begins in an apartment block in the XVIIth arrondissement of Paris where, chapter by chapter, room by room, like an onion being peeled, an extraordinary rich cast of characters is revealed in a series of tales that are bizarre, unlikely, moving, funny, or (sometimes) quite ordinary. From the confessions of a racing cyclist to the plans of an avenging murderer, from a young ethnographer obsessed with a Sumatran tribe to the death of a trapeze artist, from the fears of an ex-croupier to the dreams of a sex-change pop star to an eccentric English millionaire who has devised the ultimate pastime, Life is a manual of human irony, portraying the mixed marriages of fortunes, passions and despairs, betrayals and bereavements, of hundreds of lives in Paris and around the world. But the novel is more than an extraordinary range of fictions; it is a closely observed account of life and experience. The apartment block's one hundred rooms are arranged in a magic square, and the book as a whole is peppered with a staggering range of literary puzzles and allusions, acrostics, problems of chess and logic, crosswords, and mathematical formula. All are there for the reader to solve in the best tradition of the detective novel.… (more)
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English (31)  French (4)  Italian (3)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (44)
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
One of the most bizarre books I have ever read. I'm not sure how to describe it, or whether it deserves one star or whether it deserves more stars than any rating system can provide. Laboriously cataloguing the lives, possessions, pasts and futures of the residents and rooms of an entire Parisian apartment building, Perec weaves little threads of puzzles throughout a dense narrative. It can be heavy-going to read, but at the same time feels immensely rewarding, even when you're not quite sure what that reward is.

Okay, this is the vaguest review I have EVER written, but I'm at a loss for words. It's certainly an astounding achievement, but I might need a few decades to figure out why I liked it... or even IF I did! ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 27, 2020 |
Simultaneously so massive and yet so minute, allow a quick consulting of your Anti-Oedipus and then bring this to resolution. This novel brought considerable warmth and a curious attention to matters. Much like black bean hummus. Don't eat this book. Such requires a chuckle as I type. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
My favourite book of all time... Everything a novel should or ever could be. Big characters, ripping yarns, wonderful descriptions, word play, structural experimentation and a sad truth at its heart... To read and read again and never exhaust its possibilities. RIP, GP. ( )
  PZR | Jul 28, 2018 |
in genere riesco anche a fare a meno delle istruzioni.
abbandonato a p.116. ( )
  cry6379 | Sep 17, 2017 |
Un giorno lo rileggerò nonostante le sue quasi 600 pagine. E' sicuro, come il ritorno delle zanzare ad ogni estate. Intanto sta in bellavista sul palchetto d'onore della lettereatura spaiata (ai tempi suoi snobbavo i tascabili bur a favore degli einaudi e così ne ho pochi e tutti sparsi per la libreria).
Ed è atrettanto certo che lo amerò come allora perché...oui, je suis Georges Perec ( )
  icaro. | Aug 31, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
The appendices to Life: a user's manual seem to me less appended than integrated parts of the narrative, so much of which consists in clues, patterns, linkages, quests and resolutions. To follow a character or place through the text via the index, checklist, chronology, is to be led to other people, places and topics; only in this 'second reading' may some of the threads in the tapestry stand out to delineate the pieces of a pattern which was there all along but perhaps not perceived. Do read this manylayered, multi-dimensional book; then play with the endmatter and discover more of it.
added by KayCliff | editThe Indexer, Judy Batchelor (Apr 1, 1990)
 

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Perec, Georgesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bellos, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Borger, EduTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gundelach, Frants IverTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keynäs, VilleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magné, BernardPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mari, EnzoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Selvatico Estense, DaniellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Look with all your eyes, look
(Jules Verne, Michael Strogoff)
Dedication
to the memory of RAYMOND QUENEAU
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Preamble
To begin with, the art of jigsaw puzzles seems of little substance....

PART ONE, CHAPTER ONE
Yes, it could begin this way, right here, just like that, in a rather slow and ponderous way, in this neutral place that belongs to all and none, where people pass by almost without seeing each other, where the life of the building regualrly and distantly resounds.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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