Exercises in style-Queneau   Leave a comment


This is a book from the ‘1001 books to read before you die’ list. It is relatively short, but not like anything I have read before.

It is in constrained form, which is a literary technique where the writer is bound by rules that forbids certain things or imposes a pattern. In this book it is to repeat a short story 99 times, each time using a different style.

In each, the narrator gets on the “S” bus in Paris. He witnesses an disagreement between a man with a long neck and funny hat and another passenger. He later sees the same man, two hours later at the Gare St-Lazare getting advice from a friend on adding a button to his overcoat.

To be honest, I did not even know there were 99 styles, and some seem invented. It was published in 1947, and in English in 1957.

It was written by Raymond Queneau, who was a French novelist, poet, critic and editor, who was notable for his wit and cynical humour. This humour, I am sure, is present in some of these 99 styles!

I have no idea what prompted Queneau to write this book, even after doing some research on it.

It is interesting to read, and see how a simple story changes just be changing the style. Very simple differences transform the meaning behind the words. Any potential writer should read this as a method of training, it could change how you write.

I cannot say I enjoyed the book, but it did make me think, which I presume was the point.



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