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Raymond Queneau (1903 – 1976)

Lifespan: 1903 - 1976

Related: postmodern literature - experimental literature - French literature - surrealist literature - poetry

Exercises in Style (1947) - Raymond Queneau [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


Raymond Queneau (February 21, 1903 – October 25, 1976) was a French poet and novelist. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Queneau [Aug 2006]

Under the pseudonym of Jean Raymond, Raymond Queneau translated le Mystère du train d'or by Edgar Wallace.

Exercises in Style (1947) - Raymond Queneau

Exercises in Style, written by Raymond Queneau (in French, the original title is Exercices de style) is a collection of 99 retellings of the same story, each in a different style. In each, the narrator gets on the "S" bus (now no. 84), witnesses an altercation between a man (a zazou) with a long neck and funny hat and another passenger, and then sees the same person two hours later at the Gare St.-Lazare getting advice on adding a button to his overcoat.

The retellings range from breathless to hilarious (especially "Maladroit", where the narrator recaps in one sentence the entire preceding page), and the collection is a brilliant display of literary mastery.

The book was translated from the French into English by Barbara Wright in 1958, into Italian by Umberto Eco, into Dutch by Rudy Kousbroek, into Norwegian by Ragnar Hovland, into German by Ludwig Harig and Eugen Helmlé, into Turkish by Armagan Ekici in 2003 and into Polish by Jan Gondowicz in 2005. Because, by their nature, the various retellings of the story employ fine subtleties of the French language, translations into these other languages are adaptions as well as being translations.

An homage in graphic novel form, 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style by Matt Madden, was published in 2005. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exercises_in_Style [Aug 2006]

A twentysomething bus rider with a long, skinny neck and a goofy hat accuses another passenger of trampling his feet; he then grabs an empty seat. Later, in a park, a friend encourages the same man to reorganize the buttons on his overcoat. In Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, this determinedly pointless scenario unfolds 99 times in twice as many pages. Originally published in 1947 (in French), these terse variations on a theme are a wry lesson in creativity. The story is told as an official letter, as a blurb for a novel, as a sonnet, and in "Opera English." It's told onomatopoetically, philosophically, telegraphically, and mathematically. The result, as translator Barbara Wright writes in her introduction, is "a profound exploration into the possibilities of language." I'd say it's a refresher course of sorts, but it's more like a graduate seminar. After all, how many of us are familiar with terms such as litote, alexandrine, apheresis, and epenthesis in the first place? --Amazon.com

See also: experimental literature - 1947 -

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