Exercises In Style

Fiction

Raymond Queneau
translated by Barbara Wright

On a crowded bus at midday, Raymond Queneau observes one man accusing another of jostling him deliberately. When a seat is vacated, the first man appropriates it. Later, in another part of town, Queneau sees the man being advised by a friend to sew another button on his overcoat. Exercises in Style retells this unexceptional tale ninety-nine times, employing the sonnet and the alexandrine, "Ze Frrench" and "Cockney." An "Abusive" chapter heartily deplores the events; "Opera English" lends them grandeur. In 1947, when Exercises in Style first appeared in French, it led to Queneau's election to the highly prestigious Académie des Goncourt. He once told Barbara Wright that of all of his books, this was the one he most wished to see translated. He rendered her his "heartiest congratulations," adding: "I have always thought that nothing is untranslatable. Here is new proof. And it is accomplished with all the intended humor. It has not only linguistic knowledge and ingenuity, it also has that."

More Praise…

Exercises in Style lays to rest (or should) the quaint idea that fiction is composed of two equal parts: Form and Content.”

— Gilbert Sorrentino, Washington Post Bookworld

Exercises in Style will prove to be one of the more enduring works of 20th-century French literature.”

The New York Times Book Review