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Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (Penguin Classics) Paperback – March 20, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

John Sturrock is a writer and critic who has previously translated Victor Hugo, Stendhal, and Rimbaud. A consulting editor at the London Review of Books, he lives in West Sussex, England.

John Sturrock is a writer and critic who has previously translated Victor Hugo, Stendhal, and Rimbaud. A consulting editor at the London Review of Books, he lives in West Sussex, England.


John Sturrock is a writer and critic who has previously translated Victor Hugo, Stendhal, and Rimbaud. A consulting editor at the London Review of Books, he lives in West Sussex, England.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (March 20, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141442247
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141442242
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #153,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Alessandro on April 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
As the author of the world's longest palindrome and other literary feats, Perec's phenomenal linguistic skills and imagination remain incomparable. His works, however, on not merely experiments within the constraints of language; I am not as impressed with his ability to write a 300-page novel without a single letter "e" as much as his endearing sense of humor and humanity. "Species of Spaces" stands as a critical piece of his oeuvre in that it serves as a primer of sorts for his other major works, like a meta-text or map of his other works. Beyond this function, though, lies a vision of what literature can be, beyond genre. Perec explores the spaces we inhabit, beginning with the most evident, the page itself on which he writes (and you read), and "zooming out" into ever grander scales: the apartment, the street, the city, the country, and the universe itself. He does not cease to inscribe himself in each of these spaces, for the crisis that drives this book is that Perec does not exist except in language, on the page, in the apartment, in the street, etc. Every act of writing is an existential re-affirmation, made poignant by the author's circumstances (Perec was the son of Holocaust victims). The darkness of his own history is mitigated, however, by these attempts to capture the here-and-now in writing.
This is a perfect book for the writer seeking inspiration, since the way Perec does not use language as a clunky tool but rather plays with it, tests its limits. Literature seems then not a struggle for self-expression but an exercise in creativity. Perec's approach is refreshing, original, and terribly underappreciated.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. Steele on March 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After reading some of Perec's other, less notable work, this book fell into my hands during an analysis of modern architecture and space dynamics. His consideration of the individual's interaction within spaces and the identity prescribed by such spaces is enlightening and stimulating. This was a very enjoyable read and is an excellent translation of the original French.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Alfred Jensen on February 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
Perec's work reminds me of a potted plant on a windowsill of an old apartment, a free-growing natural form set in an urban environment. It's like seeing that one tree outside your apartment window, the one that reminds you that not everything has to hold to the grid. His style reminds me somewhat of Glenn Gould's interpretations of Bach.

The best two pieces are a review of an old 19th century travel guide to London and an interview where Perec describes his experience serving as a paratrooper during France's Gaullist period.

Lyrical, measured, and humane; a great read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 30, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After my second reading of "Species of Spaces" a couple of years ago, I decided I should read it once a year. As another reviewer says, Perec makes the everyday so interesting, and it makes us question the ways we interact with our immediate everyday world.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Patrizia Pilosi on January 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
humor, imagination and wit combined at their best in a unique exploration of ordinary things. a profound and pleasurable book to read, flowing like a letter from a friend.
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19 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
A welcome addition to the under-translated oeuvre of an incomparable writer. Species of Spaces is a collection of essays, fictions, and verbal bagatelles showcasing a Parisian who "never wanted to write the same thing twice." Perec fuses quotidian concerns with psychological imperatives, and takes you to places you've never been before. Perec's work is the infra and ultra of literature's spectral continuum. And he's gut-busting funny, too.
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By towercity on November 21, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Note before review: My rating is based on only Species of Spaces, not the supplemental readings. If the supplemental readings were included, my rating would be somewhat lower, maybe four stars, or three on a bad day.

First, on Species:
It's been about a month or two between when I read this piece and now, but it's stuck with me the whole time. Perec pays close attention to everything around him, zooming out from the page he writes on the the whole of the universe, and along the way he observes things as simple as a man locking his car to go to the store, the number and types of places he has slept in, and what happens to the picture and the wall its hung on, all in an inviting, friendly voice. Part of this inviting friendliness comes from him inviting you to do the same as him. Observe the world, he says. Make exhaustive lists, for they are the only way to truly see the world around you. Perhaps I'm biased because I like to do similar observation exercises (and have done so both before and after reading the piece), but there are certain things you cannot notice without these type exercises. And Perec gives you just enough in Species to entice you to look around your own city without boring you with actual full examples of exhaustive lists, making this slimish work a quick, enjoyable, and eye-opening (literally or figuratively) little read.

On the Rest:
About half of these things are interesting, some just to look at (like the list of foodstuffs eaten in one year) and others for their content (the humor of A Scientific Friendship..., the very interesting pieces on memory), but the rest seem there just to show the range of Perec's untranslated work. I ended up taking long breaks in reading because of this, reading maybe a piece a week.
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