Life: A User’s Manual by Georges Perec was originally written in French in 1978 and was translated in English by David Bellos in 1988. The original work is quite complex and a rich work of art and because of this, its title page describes it as novels i. e. , in plural. The matter becomes clear as we go on reading the book. Perec has imagined the whole story when he was working with a jigsaw puzzle and it is considered as one of his most remembered work. Perec’s books are all examples of his playfulness and all his works are typical in some way or other.
Life: A User’s Manual is a combination of short tories and it seems Perec wants to tell the readers that life is like a jigsaw puzzle and we have to arrange the jigsaws to get a coherent picture. Perec tells, It’s not the subject of the picture, or the painter’s technique, which makes a puzzle more or less difficult, but the greater or lesser subtletly of the way it has been cut; an arbitrary cutting pattern will necessarily produce an arbitrary degree of difficulty. . .
The art of jigsaw puzzling begins with wooden puzzles cut by hand, whose maker undertakes to ask himself all the questions the player will have to solve, and, instead of llowing chance to cover his tracks, aims to replace it with cunning, trickery and subterfuge. In the story there is an extremely rich Englishman, Bartlebooth who has some plans that will occupy his rest of life and spend his fortune at the same time. He spent his first ten years learning to paint with watercolors and then twenty years went for a trip round the world with his faithful servant Smautf.
During this trip his servant makes paintings of different ports in watercolor and Bartlebooth sends each of the paintings to France. Here he painting is glued to a support board and a selected craftsman cuts it cautiously into a jigsaw puzzle. When Bartlebooth returns he spends his time solving these jigsaw puzzles. As the puzzles get solved, the paper is rebound with the help of a special solution and the wooden support is removed.
Then it is sent to the port where it was painted and is immersed in the water till the colors get dissolved leaving just the faint marks of a painting on the paper and the marks of rejoining of the paper too. This paper is once again returned to Bartlebooth. In the end there was nothing to show what he had done in the last 50 years f his life. This was an ongoing process and eventually as the puzzles became difficult Bartlebooth turned blind and while he was working on his 439th puzzle he died and he was sixteen months behind his project.
This is the story so carefully written that the reader finds it interesting as well as occupied completely with the story. The narrator wants to tell his readers through his character, Bratlebooth that life can be seen in the same way, i. e. , like the paintings that are turned into jigsaw puzzles and when the puzzle is solved it is turned into a blank paper once again. This shows that the events in our life are like the paintings that need to be arranged into coherent pictures and then it should be forgotten completely.
Take a new jigsaw puzzle or any problem in life and solve it. One should not get too much attached to anything in life even if you have given it your beautiful and youthful years. Things, people and events are meant to come and go and there is no need to get too much involved with any of them. The story is told in six parts and occupies ninety-nine chapters. The story in fact begins ith a jigsaw puzzle and the reader finds that the whole story is in itself a jigsaw puzzle but so interestingly and uniquely written that the reader feels completely involved in the story.
Perec’s puzzle can be related to a number of events and characters of the story and as you read on you will find that you are actually solving a puzzle like situation. There are different types of descriptions in this book and the book seems to gather so many stories but very neatly bound between two shiny covers. The character of this book resembles the actual world and life where we find that everything is like a puzzle and we eed to solve each one and then it vanishes from our hands after sometime.
There are depths upon depths in this book, which is felt when the reader inspects it closely. The book is written like the chess game and the narrator always jumps two spaces like a knight and has arranged the apartment building like chessboard. The narrator wants to tell you that life is like the puzzle pieces and when you try and arrange them to complete a logical picture, it tricks you. But you should go on solving new and different problems or situations in life even if you find yourself tricked by some of them.
Courtney from Study Moose
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