Exercises in Style has ratings and reviews. Manny said: MetaFrom what point of view should I review the book? Evidently: from all possible po. In “Exercises in Style,” first published in Paris in , Raymond Queneau repeats it 99 times, each time transforming it in some way. The first. exercises, they all do tell the same story about a minor brawl in a bus, and . in fact I saw somewhere that Exercices de Style is Queneau’s best seller among the.

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As writing teachers and crime scene investigators know, a hundred different people could witness the same incident and describe it differently. But only Raymond Queneau, a French author with ties to the Surrealist movement, has put all one hundred accounts into a book.

Okay, not quite one hundred.

Exercises in Style – Wikipedia

Queneau stopped sfyle ninety-nine retellings of his story at least in the first edition of his work. Who would imagine that the repetition of the same sequence of events, presented 99 times in a row, would result in a classic?

And Queneau adds to the challenge by choosing a banal incident as the recurring ‘plot’ of Exercises in Stylea humdrum encounter without even enough drama or inherent interest to justify a short story, let alone a whole book queneay them. Here is the ratmond After a testy exchange, the young man moves to a vacant seat.

Later that same day, he is seen standing in front of a train station, where a friend is advising him to adjust one of the buttons on his overcoat.

Oh, Queneau throws in a few more details. We are told that the young man has a long neck, and wears a plaited string on his hat instead of a ribbon, but not much more.


The key milestones in the narrative arc— if I can apply such noble phrase on so meager a tale— remain stepped-on toes and a poorly-placed button. But the very banality of the raw material makes Raymomd achievement all the more impressive. As the title of the book states clearly, only the style of the narrations draws the reader into this oft-told tale.

We read the story in the form styke an astrological forecast: Today, at roughly twelve noon, I was present on the platform of a bus…. The bus was being got into by passengers…. Nor will a reader looking for a gripping page-turner find much reason to turn these pages.

Exercises in Style

But writers, and especially aspiring writers, can benefit from Queneau’s quirky volume. Anyone teaching a class on fiction techniques should consider this for the syllabus—and a perfect class assignment would be to invite students to come up with their own version of the bus-and-button story. That said, I have my gripes with Queneau. This led Queneau to include a dozen or so almost unreadable chapters in Exercises in Stylebased on anagrams, pig Latin, spoonerisms or other mind-numbing methods of rearranging letters on a page.

I am hardly opposed to word games, and have a lamentable habit of indulging in alliterations, puns and other ignoble techniques in my own writing. But Queneau goes several steps faymond far in his mania, and soon forgets that there is difference between an exercise in style and a puzzle.

A cryptogram is not prose, no matter how cleverly constructed. On the other hand, how unfortunate that Queneau did not look around at his own intellectual circles in postwar France, and build some chapters on the reigning dogmas and ideologies of his day. I would have happily read a Marxist account of the bus story, as well Freudian, Fascist, Existentialist, Jungian and Behaviorist, to cite a few promising perspectives on exerckses inhumanity of bus passenger to syle passenger.


I am still unsure about whether such ideologies grasp the essence of our quotidian lives, but they definitely impact how true believers write stories, and any inquiry into style that ignores the sway of ideology is inevitably incomplete. Yet Queneau, for all my fault-finding, still retains ratmond place in the syllabus, and demands inclusion on any serious writer’s bookshelf. Nor will this change for the foreseeable future…and for a very good reason: But someone else should write another book of this sort, updating and expanding the concept, with less wordplay and more satirical insight.

Indeed, Lethem contributes his homage to Queneau in the new English translation of Exercises in Style. Exercses the ascendancy exercisss fragmented and recursive narrative techniques in current-day literary fiction, the experimental approach that Queneau unleashed on an unsuspecting public back in the s might just find an even more receptive audience in the present moment.

Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau

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