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Life: A User's Manual

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4.26  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,169 Ratings  ·  356 Reviews
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. 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, and extraordinary ...more
Paperback, 581 pages
Published October 1988 by David R. Godine, Publisher (first published 1978)
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The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExupéryLes Misérables by Victor HugoThe Stranger by Albert CamusThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre DumasMadame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Best French Literature
66th out of 602 books — 1,147 voters
If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo CalvinoHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiPale Fire by Vladimir NabokovCloud Atlas by David MitchellSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Oulipo,etc.
11th out of 235 books — 217 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Megha
Mar 06, 2012 Megha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews, kickass

Last night after I had finished reading this book, there still lingered a smile on my face. I had read last 100-ish pages in a rush. It was only after I finished reading and put the book down that I realized that I was going to miss this charming book.

After hearing out little anecdotes and life stories of a multitude of characters, after reliving moments of their lives through their stories, it is now time to say our goodbyes. I stand at the doorstep waving my hand and watching those figures shr
...more
Geoff
Sep 05, 2012 Geoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: infinite-books
Another example of one of those rare works that seemingly contain Everything, Life does not lend itself to brief summation. Like one of those tiny foam dinosaurs that grow to a humongous size when soaked in water (is that really the best simile I can come up with? jesus...), after closing the last of its 600 pages I still feel it expanding. Just look at the appendices. Hundreds of characters, over hundreds of years, hundreds of stories, hundreds of interconnections, all planned down to the centi ...more
Stacy
Jun 17, 2008 Stacy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with a pulse and a smidgen of curiosity and intelligence about the world.
Recommended to Stacy by: ryan platt
i may have mentioned this before, but i had an ephiphanal reader experience last fall. last fall i was lucky enough to score a ticket to hear salman rushdie read at cornell. the experience left me not only with a hankering to read sir rushdie, but also to make a solemn promise to myself to read "less crap." a disclaimer: i don't think that any of what i read is actually "crap" but that my promise to myself was invoking rather a desire to put myself forward at least a fraction of the distance tha ...more
Mala

Recommended for: Readers looking for something 'DIFFERENT'.

Georges Perce brought his multifaceted* talent to this amazing book Life A User’s Manual , nine years in the making, it won him the Prix Médicis & a solid international credential.
An offbeat, quirky tale, its cumulative effect is staggering! Approach its playful inventiveness appreciatively & it'll prove to be a rewarding read. Feel bogged down by its endless lists of objects & paraphernalia, and you won't make much headway.
...more
Nick Craske
Jan 20, 2016 Nick Craske rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
George Perec’s novel was published in French in 1978 and first published in English in 1987. This could not have been an easy assignment for the translator.

The opening quotation, 'Look with all your eyes, look.’ —quoting Jules Verne— is both an allusion to the wonder of both deciphering how we see the world and how we remember what we have seen. Or think we have seen...

This glorious, delectable visual feast of a novel, is constructed in the manner of an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. Perec’s canvas an
...more
Lee
Mar 14, 2014 Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
By about page 200, this was firmly in my top 10 fave books. By the end, it seemed to me like a clear-cut canonical biggie (eg, Moby Dick, Infinite Jest, 2666, Ulysses), but better natured than these -- also, it didn't seem like much of a chip was trying to be knocked off the authorial shoulder. Joyce took on Shakespeare, DFW tried to depose the postmodernist phallocracy, but Perec seems more at peace. It's like Beckett's sucking stones section in Molloy: elaborate, infinitely detailed processes ...more
knig
Nov 18, 2013 knig rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I used to be able to file a book without a rating: what happened? I don't want to give this book one or any stars: its not that its a bad book, its just not for me. I never liked Gabriel Garcia's 100 years nor Robert Altman's Short Cuts: the formula just doesn't do it for me: I can't take multiple narrative threads, hundreds of characters, all running around hither and thither like headless chickens till it does my head in and I don't know whats what, objects and stories and protags multiplying ...more
Emma
I went in search for this book when I was in France recently. My grandparents old house is like the Mary Celeste, frozen in time since their deaths some years ago, and is home to a dusty and unloved collection of French literature. Without much effort I found an old and well worn copy of Life A Users Manual by Perec. Finding this particular copy felt rather special, having been read by my grandmother, grandfather and father before me.

The novel is essentially an observation of life, of experienc
...more
Paul Bryant
A pre-review

This big novel has been on my (physical) shelf for years, it feels almost indecent to pick it up and actually begin it. Especially when I don't think I'll like it. Which is a shame, because I like the idea of Georges Perec, and I like the photo of him in the front here. I like the cut of his jib. He has a cat on his shoulder. So, I'll give it 100 pages. Then I expect I'll say something like: Georges Perec is the larval stage of the French whimsy which became the butterfly of Jean-Pie
...more
Teresa
"Procuro ao mesmo tempo o eterno e o efémero."

No dia 23 de Junho de 1975, às 8 horas da noite, entrei no prédio a que corresponde o número 11 da Rua Simon-Crubellier em Paris. Observei salas, cozinhas, quartos, caves, e vi espaços e vidas de centenas de pessoas que de, alguma forma, estão ligadas umas às outras como se as suas vidas fossem um puzzle gigante composto de belas, infinitas e minúsculas peças.
Encantei-me, emocionei-me, deslumbrei-me, com as mais de 100 histórias de mais de 1000 pess
...more
Christina
Now, I loved this book so why don't I recommend it to everyone? Let me try to tell you - this is a book about the people who live (or have lived) in an appartment building in Paris in the 20th century. Their lives and stories twist and tangle and intertwine and breaks up again. Every part of the book is valued equal - that means, that a chaper can be a list of objects found on the staircase and another - just as important! - chapter can be the story of how the daughter of one of the residents go ...more
Brian
Aug 27, 2013 Brian rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who exists
Many people misinterpret nihilism as only a negative or cynical approach to life and to the cosmos. But with "Life: A User's Manual" (LAUM) I sense that Georges Perec is approaching nihilism as a very positive, creative force of being. LAUM accepts our essential nothingness, but revels in the process that takes place between the birth nothing and the death nothing. We are able to exercise an exuberant free will, bouncing around within the framework of those two framing events of birth and death ...more
Jonfaith
Jan 28, 2014 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing
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.
Joshua
May 03, 2014 Joshua rated it it was amazing
Sometimes you read a book at the perfect time. This is simultaneously the perfect book for winter binge reading and also the perfect book for fifteen minutes bus rides at the beginning and end of the day.

One could argue that there is some overarching/subterranean narrative tying this whole behemoth of a novel together - people grab onto the Bartlebooth saga with the jigsaw puzzles and the landscape water colors - but in truth this book is a compendium of wide-ranging stories all containing some
...more
MJ Nicholls
List of items in my bathroom: abacus, bouzouki once strummed by Warren Ellis, cauliflowers in brocade, Dungeons & Dragoons strategy wargame for Windows ’95, elf ears, Farsi medical dictionary, gorgonzola, Hunter S. Thompson commemorative pineapple, inkwell, Jenga set, knitting needle made from yarn, Lemsip in cherry and chocolate flavours, mangle, nachos, octopus-patterned duvet cover, Peter Andre poster circa Mysterious Girl, quicksand, rum, salsa shoes, Total Recall 4-DVD set, Ulysses in E ...more
Vit Babenco
Nov 12, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Life: A User's Manual is the absolute and fundamental treatise on the theme of jigsaw puzzles where every chapter is a piece in a puzzle – a fragment of a house, a tessera of the cosmic mosaic.
“The room’s walls are painted in white gloss. Several framed posters are hanging on them. One of them depicts four greedy-looking monks sitting at table around a Camembert cheese on the label of which four greedy-looking monks – the very same – are again at table around, etc. The scene is repeated distinct
...more
Guido
Il rischio più grande, per un'opera così ambiziosa, è che si innamori della propria struttura, trascurando il contenuto: dopotutto questo libro è ambientato, sì, in un condominio parigino; ma lo si esplora locale per locale - dal bagno di un appartamento alle cantine, alle scale di servizio, a una sala da pranzo, all'ascensore, alle camere di servizio e così via - seguendo le mosse del cavallo nel gioco degli scacchi per coprire tutta la scacchiera, visitando ogni casella (tranne una, in questo ...more
ΑνναΦ
La catalogazione, l'elenco e l'elenco della spesa! (della cantina, della dispensa, del salone) elevati a delizia narrativa. Mai, mai avrei immaginato di divertirmi, incantarmi e perdermi così tanto leggendo elenchi di cose e frattali di vite. Il libro non è di facile approccio, se non si è fruitori della letteratura postmoderna... che ha in Pynchon il suo sommo vate e in Amis un suo valido seguace, sarà perché entrambi, a suo tempo, mi son piaciuti, che anche lo scoglio Perec è stato virato sen ...more
Adam Floridia
What is this book? It’s a picture. A picture cut into pieces—like a jigsaw puzzle—for the reader to reassemble. They say “a picture is worth 1,000 words”? Well, Perec’s picture is worth approximately 238,560 words (I counted the words on one page and multiplied by the number of pages, hence the “approximately). So what is this massive picture? Well, it’s
(view spoiler)
...more
Kathleen
Oct 20, 2010 Kathleen rated it did not like it
Abandoning novels feels sort of cruel, like letting a whole bunch of people just fade out of your life without trying hard enough to get to know them, so generally speaking if I get past the first chapter I won't give up on a novel. It does happen though: Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and Marcel Proust’s The Guermantes Way come to mind, so at least my abandoned novels are fairly diverse. With regret, 200 pages in, I’m adding George Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual to the melancholy little li ...more
Emily
rauschenberg3.jpg

The painter and collage-ist Robert Rauschenberg came of age during the heyday of abstract expressionism in the New York scene; and while his own work involves a similar level of abstraction (as, for example, 1954's Charlene, pictured above), he often found himself at odds with the dominant rhetoric of the "tortured artist." "There was something about the self-confession and self-confusion of abstract expressionism," he says, "that personally always put me off."

There was a whole language that I
...more
Simona
Oct 18, 2015 Simona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Il fatto che questo libro sia ambientato a Parigi gli conferisce, a mio avviso, alcuni punti a favore.
Ma non è solo la capitale francese a raccogliere consensi, è molto di più.
Leggendolo si ha la sensazione di quanto Perec si sia divertito a scriverlo, a progettarlo e a idearlo.
Partendo da un condominio, lo scrittore analizza ogni camera, ogni stanza, ogni inquilino fino a formare i 99 capitoli o sarebbe meglio dire le 99 stanze facenti parte del condominio.
Ciò che colpisce è la maniacalità, l'o
...more
Ingrid
Oct 04, 2015 Ingrid rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finito di leggere mi appresto a scrivere due righe qua e mi vengono in mente solo aggettivi: originale, bizzarro, rigoroso, straordinario.
Ma proprio letteralmente, fuori dall'ordinario.
Perché chi mai si prenderebbe la briga di scrivere per 500 e passa pagine di un palazzo di dieci piani e dei suoi cento appartamenti. Chi mai si metterebbe a descrivere gli arredi, la disposizione degli oggetti nelle case, tic, vizi e virtù delle persone che le abitano, andando a costruire cento enormi piccoli fra
...more
David
Dec 28, 2014 David rated it really liked it
You have to make it through the first 50 pages, which are heavy sledding. But then, somehow, it took off (for me, at least).

Which surprised the hell out of me, to be honest. Because normally I just can't abide descriptions of furniture, and rooms and stuff -- I tend to skim right over it. Perec spends an inordinate amount of space in describing the furnishings, when he's not making up amusingly wacky lists, or telling another shaggy dog story about some guy getting fleeced or murdered or jilted
...more
George Berguño
May 31, 2013 George Berguño rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nine years in the making, Life: A User’s Manual won the Prix Médicis in 1978 and established Georges Perec’s reputation as one of the world’s great narrative prose stylists. But, to our great loss, Perec died in 1982 at the age of forty-six.

Life: A User’s Manual is widely considered to be a novel, despite the book’s subtitle (“Fictions”). Yet I have decided to review this book as part of my series on the “Neglected Masters of the Short Story.” Why? Because, having read Perec’s masterpiece twice
...more
Conor
May 11, 2012 Conor rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-fiction
Well, hi there Goodreads! How have you been? It’s been about five months since I’ve reviewed a book. Hopefully that’ll be understandable after the following review.

First off, I’ve been writing an essay. Writing slows down my reading. That’ll be important below.

I’m going to use one of those little spoiler cut lines here. This is my idea of irony, because there’s no plot to spoil, since there's no plot at all. Oh, there's characters, and places, but if forty pages were missing from your copy, you
...more
Joshua
Apr 02, 2008 Joshua rated it it was amazing
There are nuances and games and crazy endeavors I'm sure I can't begin to understand. The premise is wonderful and specific, then tangents into little gnats that buzz around and infest one ear, colonize, and read the story to you but you try to shut them out for trying to read the story to them, which turns out to be about what you all were doing before you tried to read the story to each other. I refuse to finish the book just for the sake of keeping the gnats in my ear, and so I can re-read it ...more
Drew
Sep 12, 2012 Drew rated it it was amazing
*







*I wrote a great review for this, but then I dismantled it word by word, succumbing to the pull of the blank canvas.
Patty
Apr 03, 2009 Patty rated it it was amazing
To that old imponderable question, "If you were going to be stranded on a desert island, and you could only take one book with you...?" I now have my answer. Because I think that it would probably take decades of rereading to completely exhaust this book. It's not that it's full of lofty or difficult ideas. It's just full. I was on about page 235 when suddenly realized that embedded within the sections, the book is rife with puzzles! I didn't go around trying to solve them, but I did congratulat ...more
Tanuj Solanki
Like every other piece of furniture in this second floor flat, the round table in the living room belongs to the landlord. The top, made in glass, is five feet in diameter. It stands three feet above the ground, placed atop three baroque wooden legs sprouting from the centre, and is covered with a pink circular table cloth. The table-cloth is whitened here and there with a faint random haze of flour and a few breadcrumbs. A few purple spots can also be seen on the table cloth. It’s all spillage ...more
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Georges Perec was a highly-regarded French novelist, filmmaker and essayist. He was a member of the Oulipo group. Many of his novels and essays abound with experimental wordplay, lists and attempts at classification, and they are usually tinged with melancholy.

Perec's first novel, Les Choses (Things: A Story of the Sixties) was awarded the Prix Renaudot in 1965.

In 1978, Perec won the prix Médicis
...more
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“From this, one can make a deduction which is quite certainly the ultimate truth of jigsaw puzzles: despite appearances, puzzling is not a solitary game: every move the puzzler makes, the puzzlemaker has made before; every piece the puzzler picks up, and picks up again, and studies and strokes, every combination he tries, and tries a second time, every blunder and every insight, each hope and each discouragement have all been designed, calculated, and decided by the other.” 15 likes
“Busco a un tiempo lo eterno y lo efímero” 2 likes
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