For us Americans, Raymond Queneau’s name comes …

For us Americans, Raymond Queneau’s name comes up between other writers. Georges Perec, Georges Bataille, Andre Breton, Michel Leiris, and so forth. He is also for the causal reader a hard writer to get a clear picture of his writing. In an essence he was the shadow writer of the 20th Century.

The first book I read of Queneau’s was “Exercises in Style,” which in one way serves as a writing manual while at the same time it is a witty a charming piece of fiction. The thing is with Queneau’s writing is that you get a duality – that I think is important in his work.

One of his masterpieces (I tend to like everything by an author I admire) is “Hundred Thousand Billion Poems.” It is a work that is never in place, it consistently moves. I think poetry should be written in air instead on rock. Or a book that looks like one of those changeable head/bodies/legs books.

Queneau’s most beloved book is probably “Zazie n the Metro.” Written n colloquial French instead of academic French, Zazie was considered to be a work from a rebel. But a charming rebel. The book is charming with regards of Zazie investigating Paris via the Metro system. A great city novel.

For the Boris Vian obsessive I strongly recommend a book Queneau wrote under another name Sally Mara. Like Vian’s ‘Vernon Sullivan’ Queneau wrote a noir thriller called “We Always Treat Women Too Well.” In many ways it is the sister or brother to Vian/Sullivan’s “I Spit on Your Graves.

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