Art of Living

Art of Living

based on Georges Perec’s „La vie mode d'emploi” © Editions Fayard
Dir. Katarzyna Kalwat
Scena Kameralna
ul. Starowiślna 21
Art of Living




4 h 45 min.
3 intermission


80 zł
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inspired by the novel „Life. User’s Manual” by Georges Perec

George Perec’s “Life. User’s Manual” is a legendary avant-garde novel by a French  experimental writer with ties to the OuLiPo group, taking a cross-section of a building and showing the lives of its inhabitants. The novel has 100 chapters and describes 100 scenes from various apartments.

This play’s point of departure is an effort to faithfully replicate the structures and themes of Perec’s novel. This means we have a cross-section of stories, an excerpt of one hour from the life of a French apartment building, which works as a retrospective, covering the story of its inhabitants and its changing structure.

The play contains three groups of characters — the narrator (a port-parole of Perec himself, spying on the building’s life and narrating its tale), the main figures (Bartlebooth, Countess de Beaumont, Winckler, Roschach), and a chorus of nameless residents—the actors play different characters in each scene, trying on different parts.

What intrigues us most in Perec’s novel is the particularly relevant attempt to put together a world composed of a countless number of nearly irreconcilable parts, threads, objects, and stories: the desperate efforts of the writer to contain the reality surrounding him in a single novel, inevitably condemned to failure. This level of complexity, which no single person could possibly encompass, does not preclude a constant effort to construct a “personal image” of the world for his own purposes.

We are also fascinated by the social tensions sketched out in the building’s history: the contrast between the wealthy protagonists, with a family history and connections, and those living in the service rooms, the first generation to come here, busying themselves with odd jobs, unable to exhibit the story that builds their identity. We want to delve into the possibility of this community existing, to see what binds it together and to what degree the life of this building reflects the life of the society as such.

Katarzyna Kalwat, Beniamin M. Bukowski