Tagged: Raymond Queneau

Exercises in Style

A twenty-something year old man with a long neck and a strange hat gets on the S bus at rush hour.  He angrily accuses someone nearby of “jostling” him every time someone gets off the bus, then he moves into an empty seat. Two hours later, the narrator observes the man in the Cour de Rome having a conversation with someone who’s saying “You ought to get an extra button put on your overcoat.”

Exercises in Style, written by Raymond Queneau and published in France in 1947, starts with this little paragraph-long story. The book is a play on language, comprised of 99 variations of this story–the variations literally are exercises in style. Each “exercise” is given its own title and takes the form of poetry, word games, one-act plays, and narratives told from different–and sometimes unintelligible–perspectives:


I was plat-bus-forming co-massitudinarily in a lutetio-meridional  space-time and I was neighbouring a longisthmusical plaitroundthehatted greenhorn. Who said to a mediocranon: “You’re jostleseeming me.” […]

An example of something even more nonsensical:


Ot us sengers. Ticed ung an eck embled at affe ring at ith ted ord. Ot gry nother senger plaining rod oes very one n ut. Ent at own here as ree eat. […]

In his introduction, the translator mentioned the difficulties of translating humorous made-up French words into humorous made-up English words. Some of the variations are supposed to be nonsense, but I do wonder what the original French text is like.

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