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Life, A Users Manual Paperback – 1 Nov 1988

4.2 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1 Nov 1988
£32.49 £5.80
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Product details

  • Paperback: 581 pages
  • Publisher: David R. Godine Publisher; Reprint edition (1 Nov. 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879237511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879237516
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 15.5 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,181,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A dazzling, crazy-quilt monument to the imagination" (Paul Auster New York Times)

"An eccentric, madly ambitious scheme to display life all at once. The product of a hectically ingenious intelligence, like James Joyce's" (Victoria Glendinning The Times)

"Amazing, moving and lovable" (New Statesman)

"The finest novel to appear in French since Beckett's trilogy" (Times Literary Supplement)

"Very funny and very sad... A treasure-chest of stories, something to be enjoyed by anyone who has ever responded to works on the same scale and in the same spirit as Rabelais and Chaucer and Sterne" (Scotsman) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

'The last major event in the history of the novel' Italo Calvino --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Georges Perec's wonderful title perhaps requires an opening warning that this is an experimental novel rather than a New Age self-help guide ... but a novel unlike any that I've ever read before. He takes a Paris apartment block on a single day (23rd June 1975), and moves round individual rooms in the various flats in an order which is apparently determined by a well-known conundrum in chess (how to get round all 64 squares of a chess board using consecutive Knight's Moves) for a total of 99 fairly short chapters. In each room, he gives us a detailed inventory of the contents - including any people who may be present and what they are up to - usually followed by a digression relating some of the occupants' Back Story, but not infrequently leading on to a digression on something much more tangential (the life story of a sixteenth-century explorer, say, whose biography happens to be in the room). By the end of the book, Perec emerges as a sort of unlikely Sheherazade, having given the reader some short but unforgettable tales (which he helpfully lists as an Appendix with page numbers!). He has also, more memorably, given us a remarkably complete picture of the life of the apartment lived all-at-once, and how the various occupants interact with each other, linked via the central tale of English billionaire eccentric Percival Bartlebooth and his jigsaws.

Bartlebooth, cursed with inexhaustable reserves of time and money, effectively decides to turn his own life into a work of art, by touring the world for twenty years painting 500 watercolours of seaports, which are then turned into jigsaws by one of the apartment's other occupants, Gaspard Winckler.
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Format: Paperback
A long, complex novel, ostensibly about a Parisian apartment building and the history of the people who've lived there over many generations - and of the complex ties between them. The other metaphor Perec keeps coming back to is that of the jigsaw puzzle. Everyone fits into the complex overall framework of life; all sorts of strange fragmentary shapes - births, deaths, lives, loves, objects lost and found, hopes fulfilled and shattered - figure in the interlocking tales that wander across time and space. Shining through the complex structure of the book is Perec's warmth and humanity - his belief that love and hope and honesty are what bind us together.
A wonderful, memorable read. Treat yourself.
Comment 48 of 48 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
This is a truely marvelous book, a gem, and a joy to read. I was a little perturbed at first as I have struggled in the past with such oddly structured books, this however was a page turner from the outset.

Each chapter contains within its three or four pages, puzzles, enigmas, stories, anecdotes, histories and characters completely aside from the main narrative which runs in detached threads from the first pages to the last, assembled piece by piece like a jigsaw. The conclusion is ultimately moving and sad, but most of all rewarding. This book is about all facets of life, from the truly mundane to the most far fetched and eccentric; simply written, Perec has acheived quite a feat in making this complicated and highly illusive(and allusive) novel so absolutely readable. He is a member of the oulipo workshop as are Calvino and Queneau.

One thing which you may notice from time to time while reading are whole chunks of prose borrowed from, or at the least alluding to, other writers. While reading I noticed a passage by Kafka that had been carefully weaved into a sub-plot within one of the chapters. On the last page on the book all the authors he has borrowed from are cited so you can, if you wish, read the novel like a literary train spotter though I would advise that you don't, you'd perhaps be missing the point.
In summise: marvelous, probably unique, and great fun. A shame much is probably lost in translation but such is the way with many great books.
Four stars for being an amazing read the fifth for originality.
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Format: Paperback
This book needs to be read to be believed. It consists of a series of still lives or minor episodes, all based on a Paris apartment block and its inhabitants. Although it has few coherent conventional narrative streams, it tantalises the reader wonderfully and provides a wide array of characters, major and minor, who float in and out of the stories like flotsam and jetsam on the tide. Perec is a master of invention and the few threads of continuity are brought together in a fabulous conclusion that left me chilled for days. What is it about? Everything: storytelling, art, patterns, jigsaw puzzles, the nature of truth, life, mess, wonder, joy, unhappiness and the general imperfect details of living. It really is a fantastic read and well worth the effort needed to understand the style of one of the wondrous and obscure writers of this century. It is truly one of the most complete books I have ever read.
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Format: Paperback
This astonishing book depicts the lives and ephemera (possessions, obsessions, history, peccadilloes, life stories, psychologies, loves and despairs) of the inhabitants of a large apartment-block in Paris. Ranging over the whole of the 20th century and full of the most amazing detail, including the description of every room, its decoration, furniture and inhabitants, this novel is unlike anything I have read before. One is given such an astounding amount of detail that at times it is difficult to see the intention - unless it is to overwhelm the reader with the pure ephemera and inconsequentiality of life? It is an achievement, there is no doubt, but is it a novel?

But does it matter that it transgresses some of the rules? No, because it has strange and compelling compensations, in the form of the story of the 20th century in a particular place. There are tragedies, love affairs, murders, mysteries, eccentricities galore, and this collage effect is above all sensitive to the art and culture of Paris. Its multifarious characters and life stories are like a strange mosaic that offers unending novelty and drama - but without the overarching themes that a novel usually uses to give cohesion and meaning. Meaning, indeed, is problematic, as it is in life. Perhaps this is the key to this strange achievement? In any case it is a marvellous read, full of curiosity and adventure, but also strangely static. As we look onto our own history, we will no doubt see the same mixture of banality, movement, beauty and morbidity. This is a user's manual after all.
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