For us Americans, Raymond Queneauâ€™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 Queneauâ€™s was â€œExercises in Style,â€ 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 Queneauâ€™s writing is that you get a duality â€“ that I think is important in his work.
One of his masterpieces (I tend to like everything by an author I admire) is â€œHundred Thousand Billion Poems.â€ 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.
Queneauâ€™s most beloved book is probably â€œZazie n the Metro.â€ 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 Vianâ€™s â€˜Vernon Sullivanâ€™ Queneau wrote a noir thriller called â€œWe Always Treat Women Too Well.â€ In many ways it is the sister or brother to Vian/Sullivanâ€™s â€œI Spit on Your Graves.