Life : A User's Manual

4.21 (6,858 ratings by Goodreads)

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"One of the great novels of the century. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the late 20th century has produced a novel on the level of Joyce, Proust, Mann, Kafka, and Nabokov."--Boston Globe

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 A User's Manual 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.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 661 pages
  • 140 x 213 x 41mm | 794g
  • Lincoln, United States
  • English
  • Bilingual edition
  • 2nd ed.
  • Illustrations, black and white
  • 1567923739
  • 9781567923735
  • 163,776

Review quote

Praise for Life A User's Manual

"Those who have a taste for the unusual, for books that create worlds unto themselves, will be dazzled by this crazy-quilt monument to the imagination."--The New York Times Book Review

"In this wondrously optimistic book, he sidles through the lives of the inhabitants of a single Paris apartment block and manages to convey scintillas of every aspect of the human condition--proving that, while ultimately without point, life is a continuum rich beyond belief, and so very well worth living."--The Week Magazine

"This elaborate jigsaw puzzle of a novel has drawn comparisons to the masterworks of twentieth-century literature."--Rolling Stone

"A classic of contemporary fiction."--Publishers Weekly

"Perec's artistry has achieved a perfect balance between allure and imponderability."--The Los Angeles Times
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About Georges Perec

Georges Perec was a French essayist, novelist, memoirist, and filmmaker. Born in Paris in 1936, the child of Polish Jews, his father died as soldier in the Second World War and his mother was killed in the Holocaust. Much of his work dealt with themes of identity, loss, absence--including his most celebrated work, Life A User's Manual.
In addition to being honored by the Prix Renaudot (1965), the Prix Jean Vigo (1974), the Prix Medicis (1978), and the French postal service (2002), both an asteroid and a street in Paris were named in his honor--as well as a Google Doodle on his 80th birthday.

David Bellos won the first Man Booker International Prize for his translations of the Albanian author, Ismail Kadare, and holds the rank of Officier in the Ordre national des Arts et des Lettres and an honorary membership in The International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters.
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Rating details

6,858 ratings
4.21 out of 5 stars
5 51% (3,531)
4 28% (1,917)
3 14% (940)
2 5% (324)
1 2% (146)
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