on 14 November 2014
This is pretty much what the title suggests. This is French book, in translation, retelling the same short tale of about 200 words or so in around 100 different styles that is tenses, modes, poem, exclamation, passive voice, ode, biased, Haikai, prosthesis, mathematical etc. Some of the styles are quite `technical' in a literary definition sense. It is quite an interesting and quick read. It includes a background of the author at the back.
Clearly I won't be spoiling it by retelling the story in a couple of styles that he didn't use and are of my own design:
No words with E, in the mode of Perec:
"On a busy morning a full bus had two guys in a cramp up; a youth and an old guy, taking mutual ways to work. Our young man, of tall and narrow gap "from skull to collar" has an unusual hat on with a braid not a ribbon, talks in angry form to our old man about tramping boorishly on his foot. Such a bad chap is not fair in his talk back, making our young man find an original chair away at back. On finally walking off our bus our young man hails a companion on a famous Francais Plaza some hours on. A mild shout shows to our manly pal that his fur coat would look not so bad with an additional button at its joining point"
Only words with three letters:
"The bus has two men for set off. The one has few age and the old has hot ire. The one guy say "get off the toe you bad man!". Bad man say "Why has the hat got odd way for top?. You got mad bod too!. The guy now see row end and new sit. Off the bus now pal say: our guy his fur not bad but for add the one new tie and gap."
Well you get the idea. Perhaps a good book to learn about styles but it doesn't attempt to tell the same story with, in effect, different endings which might be a completely different challenge.
99 different versions of the same trivial incident, each told in a different style. They average a couple of paragraphs but some are shorter and a few are more than a page.
The result is surprisingly interesting to read, though I suspect you have to be a certain type of person to enjoy it. (I warn you: I struggled all the way through Zazie dans let Metro in French, which includes compressed phrases devoid of vowels or spaces.)
It was different from what I expected. I expected him to take 99 different voices, each representing a different fictional personality of narrator or writer, and imagine how they would recount the incident. In fact it is not that. It is more an exploration of the range of written expression. Thus we have one full of onomatopoeia, one full of numbers, one full of colours, one full of exclamation marks, one full of "you know"s, one in anagrams, one with a lot of words ending in "ate" (congratulations to the translator for making that work), one in which all the statements are negative, one full of hyphenated words. He also explores different media - one is a play, one a civil servant's letter, one a cross examination - and some are complicated exercises largely uninteliigible.
I will let people better qualified than me comment on the intellectual feat, but I have the feeling it is a real tour de force.