Life: A User's Manual
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Life: A User's Manual

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  3,248 ratings  ·  305 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, Twentieth Anniversary Edition, 581 pages
Published January 17th 2008 by Vintage (first published 1978)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Megha

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
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Lee
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
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
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
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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
Kathleen
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
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
George Berguño
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
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
Joshua
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
Conor
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
Patty
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
Drew
*







*I wrote a great review for this, but then I dismantled it word by word, succumbing to the pull of the blank canvas.
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
Sandra

IPERROMANZO

Così ha definito Italo Calvino quest’opera nel suo libro “Lezioni americane.Sei proposte per il prossimo millennio”, inteso come “luogo di infiniti universi contemporanei in cui tutte le possibilità vengono realizzate in tutte le combinazioni possibili, costruito da molte storie che si intersecano..”
C’e tutto, in questo capolavoro. Non è possibile riassumere in poche righe questa opera d’arte. Geniale, unica.
Vengono narrate le vicende degli abitanti del Condominio di rue Simon Crubel...more
Chris and Yuri
This book was pure serendipity: I found it on a shelf of English books at a center in Akita City, Japan, that catered towards foreigners living abroad.

I read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it without knowing anything about its construction or the eccentricities of its author, Georges Perec, the man who also wrote an entire novel without using the letter "e." On the surface, it concerns the inhabitants of an apartment building in Paris, and their various experiences, their possessions and obsess...more
Carmen Daza Márquez
El buen recuerdo que conservaba de la primera lectura de este libro no era un simple embellecimiento de la memoria. También quiero decir que la traducción de Josep Escué me parece magnífica, no sé si fiel al original o no pero sí una que hace olvidar que lees un libro traducido. No hay ni un solo diálogo en las 600 páginas de la obra, este libro es fundamentalmente una narración, también las numerosas descripciones de lugares y objetos tienen un valor narrativo así como su recurrencia en diferen...more
Mateo
This book, over the course of the 8 months I coexisted with a borrowed copy, became a very dear friend. Not any character within the book, per se, but the book as a whole takes on a character of its own worthy of an intimate relationship. Intertwining stories, each taking place in or referring to one of the 99 rooms in a building, all taking place in the same present frozen instant in time, could probably be read in any order (though it definitely builds momentum in a linear way), but were writt...more
Nick
A remarkable achievement. The book captures one moment in an upscale Parisian apartment building, the significance of that instant revealed only at the end. Every chapter describes one of the hundred rooms of the building (with the exception of one cellar), completely frozen in time. Hence, because everything is motionless, much of the book is pure description of books, paintings, chairs, shelves, ceilings, curios, blotters, menus, puzzles, ads, recipes, lists, and much, much more.

Normally, thi...more
Mike
A rarity for me...an unfinished read!!

There is only so much a reader can endure in terms of exercise in style sacrificing plot, and this was it for me.

Description, description, description...

While I admire Mr. Perec's undertaking, this novel is just not entertaining...and that's near the top of the list of reasons why I read!!
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
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  • Exercises in Style
  • The Opposing Shore
  • Locus Solus
  • The Great Fire of London: A Story with Interpolations and Bifurcations
  • The Ogre
  • Oulipo Compendium
  • The Voyeur
  • Capital of Pain
  • Bouvard and Pecuchet
  • Death Sentence
  • The Melancholy of Resistance
  • Mulligan Stew
  • Moravagine
  • Darconville’s Cat
  • Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature
  • Bartleby & Co.
  • Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician
  • The Horseman on the Roof
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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
More about Georges Perec...
A Void Species of Spaces and Other Pieces W, or the Memory of Childhood Things: A Story of the Sixties; A Man Asleep Les choses

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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.” 11 likes
“Busco a un tiempo lo eterno y lo efímero” 1 likes
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