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Exercices de Style / Queneau, Raymond ; Faucheux P., 1956

Identifier: CC-31872-33395

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Scope and Contents

The book includes thirteen typographical interpretations by Pierre Faucheux that are presented as end papers and fold-out pages. Queneau's texts are composed of clever rhymes and word-plays.The story is of 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. 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. It is a profound exploration into the possibilities of language." Gary Jakaitis reviewed the English translation: In the 1930s, Raymond Queneau attended a performance of Bach's "The Art of Fugue." Queneau was struck by the fact that Bach's piece, though simple in theme, gave rise to an infinite number of musical variations. This perception became the basis for "Exercises in Style", a literary experiment which stunningly challenges the notion of realism.Queneau was a polymath, with interests and accomplishments as a novelist, poet, linguist and mathematician. Briefly a member of Andre Breton's Surrealist group, Queneau subsequently joined the "College of Pataphysics" in 1950. Pataphysics was the science of imagainary solutions, a science which originated with the poet and playwrite Alfred Jarry. The Pataphysicians were a tongue-in-cheek group of French intellectuals who didn't take themselves too seriously. At the same time, Queneau was exploring the Pataphysical, however, he was also serving as Director of the prestigious "Encyclopedie de la Pleiade", thus combining the whimsical with the serious. A decade later, Queneau was a founder of "OuLiPo" (an acronym for "Ouvroir de Litterature Poetentielle" or "Workshop for Potential Literature"). In contrast to the Dadaist and Surrealist movements, which gave free reign to chance and the unmediated workings of the unconscious, OuLiPo emphasized the systematic and deliberate generation of texts."Exercises in Style" is based upon an uninteresting and simple story, a story without any plot, a story that in itself is pointless and boring. Queneau tells this story ninety-nine times, each time using a different variation in the telling. The variations fall into roughly seven categories. These categories include different types of speech, different types of written prose, different poetic styles, and different grammatical and rhetorical forms. Another category are variations which are told in the form of character sketches through language (e.g., reactionary, biased, abusive, etc.). Queneau, in this fashion, demonstrates the fluidity of language, the variability in the ways that language can describe reality. As one critic succinctly and correctly stated, "Exercises in Style" demonstrates "the impossibility of realism in any unitary sense." -- Source of annotation: Marvin or Ruth Sackner.


  • Creation: 1956



0 See container summary (1 hard cover book + sheet (printed) + 8 pages (fold-out) (184 pages)) ; 20 x 14.2 x 2.5 cm

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Physical Location

shelf alphabeti

Custodial History

The Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, on loan from Ruth and Marvin A. Sackner and the Sackner Family Partnership.


Published: Paris, France : Librairie Gallimard; Club de Libraires de France. Nationality of creator: French. General: 5000 copies of 5150 total copies. About 2496 number copy. General: Added by: RED; updated by: RED.

Repository Details

Part of the The Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry Repository

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