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Life: A User's Manual

Customer Reviews:

A spellbinding masterpiece of experimental fiction.

By Zeldock - October 2, 2001

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. However, you will be rewarded if you persevere. In an ice-cold literary voice, Perec systematically describes the inhabitants and contents of a Paris apartment building. His style is at first totally uninvolving, yet somehow, amazingly, his monotonous descriptions come together like the tiles of a mosaic (or, to use Perec's image, the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle) to create a living, exciting picture. Even if you know nothing about the philosophical and aesthetic theories that gave this book its structure, you will find it enthralling.

Seat Yourself At The Puzzle...

By Martin Dawson - June 29, 2003

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... read more

A whole panoramic view of life as it is -and can be

By Guillermo Maynez - August 9, 2004

Although this is certainly an experimental novel, it is absolutely readable and fun. The layout is supposed to be taken from chess, with a knight jumping up on some squares which represent the appartments on the building map. Frankly, although ingenious, the scheme is not all that important to me. What truly fascinated me were the stories themselves, the full development of characters, situations, histories and sceneries. In every chapter, Perec gives us an introduction about how the appartment / room looks like. The descriptions may be long sometimes, but they are essential to the whole point of the book: to bring to life real people living in comprehensible, complete surroundings, and to make these easy to visualize. Some of the descriptions, in particular Mme. Moreau's dining room, are simply beautiful and innovative.

The book was completed in 1978 and the action of the stories ranges from mid-XIX Century until June 23, 1975. The final chapter, which gives us a... read more

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