La Vie Mode d'emploi

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Description (in English): 

This is one of the great books of the twentieth century and is worth learning French for. It's a jigsaw puzzle and a massive painting. It's an Oulipean conundrum and a microcosm of the world. It's a clever game and a philosophical investigation. It's all the things that literature should be and, in particular, it shows that, in the end, life does not fit together in a nice, neat pattern.

Perec himself said he saw a Paris block of flats with the front stripped off so that you could peer into all of the flats and watch the inhabitants go about their daily business. And, to a great extent, that is what this novel is about. He takes a (fictitious) block of flats at 11 Rue Simon-Crubellier and looks at each flat, in seemingly random order (though he uses, like Nabokov, the move of a knight in chess to move through the flats), and their inhabitants, 179 in all. The story is told by Serge Valène, who has lived in the building for fifty-five years and who is a painter who, towards the end of his life, plans on creating a painting summing up all of his life (which, of course, he does not complete).


Description (in original language): 

La Vie mode d'emploi est un livre extraordinaire, d'une importance capitale non seulement dans la création de l'auteur, mais dans notre littérature, par son ampleur, son organisation, la richesse de ses informations, la cocasserie de ses inventions, par l'ironie qui le travaille de bout en bout sans en chasser la tendresse, par sa forme d'art enfin : un réalisme baroque qui confine au burlesque.


Screen shots: 
La Vie Mode d'emploi (cover) by Georges Perec
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Daniele Giampà