November 14, 2007

Queneau's polyphony

Erudite with an encyclopaedic mind, Raymond Queneau was interested as well in philosophy, mathematics, as languages and anthropology. His mixed experimentation among Surrealists which reach on an exclusion, did not pleased him. Queneau tells indeed, with a satirical tone, this period in Odile (1937). After a trip to Greece of which he liked the language and his service record in Algeria where he learned Arabic, Raymond Queneau is quickly aware of the danger of leaving the literary language away from the spoken language. Bringing these two extremes becomes his literary project.

In 1933, is published his first book, Chiendent, a transposition into a "neo-french" language, both classic and playful, of Discourse on the Method by Descartes. The book won the first literary prize of Les Deux-Magots. Queneau likes to truffer his books of literary references. Published in 1947, Exercices de style (1947), a novel composed of 99 different mini-romans telling the same story, is a major success . The book is inspired by the Art of Fugue by J.S. Bach, heard at a concert with his friend Michel Leiris. In Le Cheval Troyen (1963), Queneau is inspired by the work of Swift. For Le Dimanche de la vie (1952), chronicles of the suburbs life, Queneau borrows its title to Hegel.
As a lover of science, Raymond Queneau also applies arithmetic rules to the construction of his work. With Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes (1961), he manages a literary and editorial challenge. This book offers to the reader the opportunity to combine and compose poems responding to the classic form of regular sonnet. One hundred thousand billion is the number of possible combinations calculated by Queneau : "It is after all a kind of machine to produce poems, but in limited numbers. It is true that this number, albeit limited, provides reading for nearly two hundred million years ago (if reading 24 hours a day). "

In 1960, Queneau constitutes with François Le Lionnais, a literary research group called Oulipo (Workroom of potential literature) involving Italo Calvino, Jacques Roubaud and Georges Perec, spiritual son if ever there is one. (Sources :,

Currently, the librairie Loliée can offer :
  • Monuments. Paris, Editions du Moustié, 1948, in-4, en leaves, folder from the publisher. First edition decorated with de 12 original engravings by Jean-Paul Vroom.
  • Un Dimanche dans la vie. Paris, N.R.F., 1951, in-12, bradel. First editionOne of the 160 copies on velin paper.
  • Si tu t'imagines. Paris, N.R.F., 1952, in-12. First edition. One of the first 82 copies on velin paper.
  • Le Cheval Troyen. Visat, 1963, in-12 , in leaves, folder. First edition decorated with 20 original drawings by Christiane Alanore. Copie on velin paper (Arches).
  • Les Fleurs Bleues. Paris, Gallimard, 1965, in-8. First edition. One of the 45 first copies on Holland paper.
  • Le Vol d'Icare. Paris, Gallimard, 1968, in-8. First edition. One of the 160 copies on velin paper.
  • Battre la campagne. Paris, Gallimard, 1968, in-12. One of the 105 copies on velin paper.
  • Fendre les Flots. Paris, N.RF., [1969], in-12. First edition. One of the first 35 copie son Holland paper.