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Exercises in Style (Oneworld Classics) [Paperback]

Raymond Queneau
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 July 2008 Oneworld Classics
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 in ninety-nine different styles. An 'Abusive' chapter heartily deplores the events, 'Opera English' lends them grandeur. Raymond Queneau rendered Barbara Wright his 'heartiest congratulations', adding, 'I have always thought that nothing is untranslatable. Here is new proof'.

Product details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Classics Ltd (1 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847490735
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847490735
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 190,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"Witty, playful, ingenious, it manages to transcend its own
sophistication by a sort of verbal slapstick which Miss Wright translates
into Pure Groucho Marxism."
-- The Guardian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

One of the most versatile and interesting of French twentieth
century authors, Queneau (1903-1976) was widely respected as an
intellectual, but also touched a bestseller public, and can be compared to
James Joyce, his friend, in his originality and ability to write
simultaneously on many levels. He was a legendary figure, not only in the
literary world, but as mathematician, philosopher and editor of the
Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. His translations by Barbara Wright are literary
masterpieces in themselves.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, Mind-stretching and Inspirational 19 Aug 2002
Okay, so that's a bit over the top. But these stories (one story, told in many different ways, actually) make me smile, make me think about language, syntax, construction and style, and inspire me to have a go myself.
The writer uses a range of styles to explore the differences this makes to the story, and to the reader's perception of the protagonists. This book is a must for anyone who ever tried to write using different voices or in different contexts (for example, a letter has a different tone to a newspaper report, a police statement or a short story, probably).
The stunning realisation that this book is a translation from the French makes the translator seem just as remarkable as the author!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of literature's greatest jokes! 7 July 1998
By A Customer
Queneau was, among many other things, a brilliant gamester. In this book he takes the most banal of stories and tells it 99 times in 99 different styles. It is a weird book, whose charm grows as you continue. Once you get to the 5th or 6th version of this inane tale, you begin to laugh and gasp and don't stop until the end. Like all good jokes, it is more than a joke. If you delight in language, read this book. If you do not delight in launguage, this book will teach you to. I have read the original French version, and Barbara Wright has stayed true to it in this wonderful translation. Don't miss this gem!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Doorway to new perspectives 14 Feb 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating book. It presents a very simple story, an encounter on a crowded tube train with a brief meeting later the same afternoon. Nothing special in that you may think. What is unique about this book is not the story, but the way in which it is presented, or ways in which it is presented to be more accurate, for the same story is presented 99 times.

Now we may at first wonder that there are nine, let alone 99 different ways of describing such a simple tale. The magic of the book is the multiplicity of styles Queneau uses. We might imagine the story told from the different perspectives of the participants. But imagine it observed passively, or described by someone hesitatingly, or with extreme precision. Imagine it told through a sonnet, or a play, or in a tactile way, as the notes in a policeman's notebook, or focussing on sounds, through spoonerisms, or by a mathematician.

The result is that one is left thinking that there are so many more ways that even such a simple story could be told.
The effect is many-fold. Never again will I be able to see a description of anything without being aware of just how partial that description must be. It illuminates the reality of multiple perspectives from which everything can be seen.

For the writer, reader, speaker and listener it changes the way you perceive the description of everything. Opening up new opportunities and raising countless new questions.

This is a truly fascinating book, which has become a timeless classic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant 7 April 2009
By Di20
A brilliant book. How can you tell a simple, everyday story in 99 different ways? I have read it in 3 different languages and I am always impressed with the translator's creativity.
This book is an intellectual challenge and more importantly, great fun. We used it in my English class and we wrote our own story using different versions. It was great inspiration.
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5.0 out of 5 stars must have for any creative 8 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
classic must-read for any creative individual; be you comic book artist, film maker, poet... it shows how much you can change the narrative with just a simple shift in perspective
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4.0 out of 5 stars exercises in style 9 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
entertaining. i read it with a permanent smile. the pieces are long enough to make the point and short enough not to strain the pleasure.
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