miércoles, 7 de abril de 2010

Queneau, 1

Life A User's Manual is dedicated to the memory of Raymond Queneau (1903-1976), the ex-surrealist and lifelong mathematics devotee who co-founded the Oulipo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle) with François Le Lionnais in 1960.  Key works include the 1947 Exercises de style [Exercises in Style], "a series of texts by Raymond Queneau in which the same inconsequential story is told in 99 different ways,"* and--at the other end of the spectrum--the 1960 Cent mille milliards de poèmes [A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems a/k/a 100,000,0000,000 Poems], "a sequence of 10 14-line sonnets" that, when read in all its possible combinations of interchangeable lines, might take someone reading the book 24 hours a day a total of 190,258,751 years to complete according to Queneau's calculations.**  Not having a calculator handy, I've decided to accept Queneau's figures on good faith.  Source: Oulipo Compendium (edited by Harry Matthews and Alastair Brotchie).  London: Atlas Press, 2005, pp. 14** and 147*.

5 comentarios:

  1. Fasinating! A friend of mine saw me reading the Perec and said that another work by him was written entirely without using the letter A, I believe. I love these guys who play with the language.

  2. Those jokers! ;-)

    I read Exercises in Style in TRANSLATION, which has got to be the most nightmarishly impossible translation job EVAR. I wonder if I could even make sense of it in French?

  3. Wha -? I think I'm going to avoid this Raymond Queneau character. Math and me don't mix.

  4. *Sarah: I agree! The work your friend mentioned (translated as A Void; original title, La Disparition) was written without an "e" for a very particular reason other than just the linguistic challenge, but Perec wrote an entirely different work where "e" was the only vowel used. Quite the clever guy!

    *Jill: Ah, but if you only knew the fun you were missing out on this time around!

    *Emily: Yes, let's hear it for the jokers! I've thumbed through both the French and English versions of Exercises in Style, but I wondered the same thing about my ability to understand it in the original. Way jealous that you've read it at all, though!

    *E.L. Fay: Math and I don't mix at all either, but I must make time for Exercises in Style at least b/c I dig Queneau's sense of humor. Speaking of which, have you gotten to the part in the Perec novel where a murder mystery and pi intersect in an absurdly cryptic fashion? I was flabbergasted!