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One Herring in a Shoal

John Sturrock: Raymond Queneau, 8 May 2003

Oeuvres complètes: Tome II: Romans I 
by Raymond Queneau, edited by Henri Godard.
Gallimard, 1760 pp., €68, April 2002, 2 07 011439 2
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... the laddish tendency at the Palace de la Rigolade, or Palace of Fun, on a fairground modelled by Queneau on the celebrated Luna-Park in Neuilly, to which it’s good to imagine him, that living A-Z to the city of Paris and its public transport, bussing out, with a view to researching the site rather than wreaking a pile-up on the dodgems. As the setting for ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Something Like a Dream of Meaning, 5 June 2014

... In​ the early 1960s, around the time that Raymond Queneau was working on his choose-your-own-sonnet sequence, Cent mille milliards de poèmes, and Marc Saporta on Composition No. 1, a looseleaf novel whose pages can be read in any order, Nanni Balestrini produced Tape Mark I, a series of sentence fragments arranged into verse sequences by a computer algorithm ...

Hound of Golden Imbeciles

John Sturrock: Homage to the Oulipo, 29 April 1999

Oulipo Compendium 
edited by Harry Matthews and Alastair Brotchie.
Atlas, 336 pp., £16.99, March 1999, 0 947757 96 1
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... and associated verbal business for almost forty years, having been launched by Le Lionnais and Raymond Queneau in 1960, and having held monthly meetings designed for the convivial incitement of its members ever since. No sooner was it started than it was understandably co-opted as a ‘sub-committee’ of the Collège de ’Pataphysique, the droll ...

On Philip Terry

Colin Burrow, 13 July 2017

... Sonnet 50 (in which Shakespeare grumbles about his horse) becomes: ‘Don’t talk to me about Raymond Queneau,/I’ve had it up to here with French theory./Since Althusser died/I spend my days on eBay.’The delights of eBay have presumably worn off, since Terry in his latest volume follows in the footsteps of ...

Anticipatory Plagiarism

Paul Grimstad: Oulipo, 6 December 2012

Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature 
by Daniel Levin Becker.
Harvard, 338 pp., £19.95, May 2012, 978 0 674 06577 2
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... the Ouvroir de Littérature potentielle, or Oulipo. Founded by François Le Lionnais and Raymond Queneau, the group devoted itself to inventing, analysing and sometimes applying constraints for the making of literature. The idea arose in the autumn of 1960 at a colloquium on Queneau’s work at ...


Michael Irwin, 19 February 1981

by John Banville.
Secker, 192 pp., £5.95, January 1981, 0 436 03264 3
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The Daughter 
by Judith Chernaik.
London Magazine Editions, 216 pp., £5.50, January 1981, 9780060107574
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We always treat women too well 
by Raymond Queneau, translated by Barbara Wright.
Calder, 174 pp., £8.95, January 1981, 0 7145 3687 3
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... of a work by a young Irish novelist named Sally Mara. Although officially acknowledged by Queneau in the early Sixties, it has never been treated as more than a squib. In a Foreword to this edition Valerie Caton rebuts the idea that Queneau might have written the story for a popular audience with a taste for ...

Lights by the Ton

John Sturrock: Jean Echenoz, 18 June 1998

by Jean Echenoz, translated by Guido Waldman.
Harvill, 122 pp., £8.99, June 1998, 1 86046 449 1
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Un An 
by Jean Echenoz.
Minuit, 111 pp., frs 65, September 1997, 2 7073 1587 7
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... and older, ludic tradition in French fiction, whose virtuoso among the moderns was the wonderful Raymond Queneau. This tradition, alas, has a habit of going mysteriously lame when it is asked to travel, as if the intellectual comedy at which France can be so good were written exclusively for the natives and disqualified by its triviality elsewhere, for ...

English Words and French Authors

John Sturrock, 8 February 1990

A New History of French Literature 
edited by Denis Hollier.
Harvard, 1280 pp., £39.95, October 1989, 0 674 61565 4
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... wholly obscured: the father of ’pataphysics, Alfred Jarry, comes and goes in a single sentence, Raymond Queneau is made to sound quite a solemn fellow, Raymond Roussel and Boris Vian are no more than names, and poor Georges Perec, unforgivably, is not even that. This is the saddest omission of all. The New History ...

Don’t worry about the pronouns

Michael Wood: Iris Murdoch’s First Novel, 3 January 2019

Under the Net 
by Iris Murdoch.
Vintage, 432 pp., £9.99, July 2019, 978 1 78487 518 3
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... the idea of the city, or making it do similar psychological work, when she says in a letter to Raymond Queneau that she has ‘been falling in love with Rome … but don’t tell your city this.’ It is striking that in the same letter, dated 1954, she says she shares with Jake Donaghue ‘some nomadic insecurity’, which we might gloss as an ...

Drab Divans

Miranda Seymour: Julian Maclaren-Ross, 24 July 2003

Fear & Loathing in Fitzrovia: The Bizarre Life of Writer, Actor, Soho Dandy, Julian Maclaren-Ross 
by Paul Willetts.
Dewi Lewis, 403 pp., £14.99, March 2003, 1 899235 69 8
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... reviewer to recognise the brilliance of Flannery O’Connor; he sought an English audience for Raymond Queneau; in 1961, he proclaimed the genius of Harold Pinter. (Pinter has since returned the favour by reading two of Maclaren-Ross’s stories on the radio.) Willetts valiantly charts his endless moves from one grim lodging to another, in ...

Not a Belonger

Colin Jones, 21 August 1997

The End of the Line: A Memoir 
by Richard Cobb.
Murray, 229 pp., £20, June 1997, 0 7195 5460 8
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... on Paris and, more strangely perhaps, Dostoevsky on St Petersburg or, on Le Havre and Paris, Raymond Queneau (whose astonishing ear for demotic language he also admired). Cobb has an ethnographer’s eye for the life of les petits gens, depicting, in a style which just keeps condescension at bay, the quotidian, the banal, the humble and the ...

Mon Charabia

Olivier Todd: Bad Duras, 4 March 1999

Marguerite Duras 
by Laure Adler.
Gallimard, 627 pp., frs 155, August 1998, 2 07 074523 6
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No More 
by Marguerite Duras.
Seven Stories, 203 pp., £10.99, November 1998, 1 888363 65 7
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... de Police in Paris. His wife wrote novels with one eye on Hemingway, the other on Fitzgerald. Raymond Queneau advised her to look elsewhere for models. In 1942 she worked for the Book Organisation Office, an institution that sieved manuscripts to make sure they gave no offence to the Germans: she was, in other words, a cog in the censorship ...

Bye-bye, NY

Ange Mlinko: Harry Mathews’s Fever Dream, 18 March 2021

Collected Poems: 1946-2016 
by Harry Mathews.
Sand Paper Press, 288 pp., $28, February 2020, 978 0 9843312 8 4
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... Scholar. It was 1956. Ashbery introduced him to the work of the eccentric procedural writer Raymond Roussel, which reignited Mathews’s literary imagination. In 1959 he came into some money and used it to found a little magazine named after one of Roussel’s works, Locus Solus: Ashbery, Kenneth Koch and James Schuyler were collaborators. It ran for ...

Red makes wrong

Mark Ford: Harry Mathews, 20 March 2003

The Human Country: New and Collected Stories 
by Harry Mathews.
Dalkey Archive, 186 pp., £10.99, October 2002, 1 56478 321 9
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The Case of the Persevering Maltese: Collected Essays 
by Harry Mathews.
Dalkey Archive, 290 pp., £10.99, April 2003, 1 56478 288 3
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... The OuLiPo, or Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, was founded in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais. The group’s initiatory text was a sequence of ten sonnets written by Queneau entitled Cent mille milliards de poèmes: these sonnets all use the same rhymes, and are grammatically constructed so that any line in any sonnet can be replaced by the corresponding line in any of the other nine sonnets ...

Towards the Transhuman

James Atlas, 2 February 1984

The Oxford Companion to American Literature 
by James Hart.
Oxford, 896 pp., £27.50, November 1983, 0 19 503074 5
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The Modern American Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Oxford, 209 pp., £9.95, April 1983, 0 19 212591 5
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The Literature of the United States 
by Marshall Walker.
Macmillan, 236 pp., £14, November 1983, 0 333 32298 3
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American Fictions 1940-1980: A Comprehensive History and Critical Valuation 
by Frederick Karl.
Harper and Row, 637 pp., £31.50, February 1984, 0 06 014939 6
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Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 919 pp., £21, January 1984, 0 233 97610 8
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... even vainly – thick volume read with the ease of a novel. Again, the range is imposing – Raymond Queneau, Roland Barthes, E.M. Cioran, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Bruno Bettelheim, Peter Gay’s Art and Act, The New Oxford Book of Christian Verse – the casual erudition much in evidence. Updike is a master at summing up careers: from the letters of ...

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