Reading Raymond Queneau
‘Exercises in Style’, Raymond Queneau’s highly influential masterpiece, consists of 99 radically different retellings of the same simple story, where a man gets into an argument with another passenger on a bus. A celebration of language and a humorous guide to literary forms, here read by one of Queneau’s biggest fans, Danish writer Peter Adolphsen. Read more …
The plot of ‘Exercises in Style’ (published in 1947) is simple: a man gets into an argument with another passenger on a bus. This anecdote is told in radically different styles throughout the book, i.e. as a sonnet, an opera, in slang, onomatopoeia, Cockney, and with many more permutations. In each, the narrator gets on the “S” bus and witnesses an altercation between a man with a long neck and funny hat and another passenger and then sees the same person two hours later at the Gare St-Lazare station getting advice on adding a button to his overcoat.
Raymond Queneau (1903-1976) was a French novelist, poet, critic, editor, and co-founder and president of the literary avant-garde movement ‘Oulipo’ (Ouvrir de littérature potentielle), known for his groundbreaking literary experiments and humor. The group defines the term littérature potentielle as “the seeking of new structures and patterns which may be used by writers in any way they enjoy”. Queneau described Oulipians as “rats who construct the labyrinth from which they plan to escape”. Queneau was attracted to mathematics as a source of inspiration. Among his best-known work besides ‘Exercises in Style’ (1947) is the Hundred Thousand Billion Poems (1961), both hallmark books of the Oulipo literary group.
Peter Adolphsen was born in 1972. He started off writing short stories but has also written novels and stories for children. He published three volumes of ‘Små historier’ (short stories), in 1996, 2000, and 2020. In 2003 came the novel ‘The Brummstein’ and in 2006 ‘Machine’. In 2017 the novel ‘The Wrinkle-Fuck Disease’ was published. Peter Adolphsen’s work is widely translated and he is regarded as one of the most prominent Danish writers of his generation.
Peter Adolphsen was recorded reading at ‘Fun Park Fyn’ Denmark, in September 2020. During the video, Adolphsen reads seven pieces from ‘Exercises in Style’. (Notation, Onomatopoeia, Exclamations, Noble, Haikai, Country, and Interjections, all translated into English by Barbara Wright.)
Camera and edit: Rasmus Quistgaard
Produced by Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2020.
Supported by C.L. Davids Fond og Samling
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