The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 12-JAN 13

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DEC 12-JAN 13 Issue

Extracts from the 65th Anniversary Edition of Raymond Queneau's Exercises In Style

For Zeu Frentch

Ouann deille araounnd noune nïeu Parc Monceau ann zeu rïeu plettfôme ov a maur o laiss feul S boss (naou éitifor), Aïe peussivd a peusseunn ouise enn equestrimeli longue naique hou ouase ouaireng a sôft failt hête tremmd ouise bréde ennstaide ov rebeune. Zess enndeuvédiouol sodd-eunnli édraisst haise naïbeu ennd aquiousd haime ov deulébreutli staipeng ann haise fite aivri tahime pessendjeuse gate ôf or ann zeu boss. Botte hi zaine brôte zeu descocheunn tou a rêpede ainnde enn ordeu tou grêbe a naou aimti site.

Tou aourze leïteu Aïe sô haime enn fronnt ov Gare Saint-Lazare enn besi cannveusécheunn ouise a frainnd hou ouase eudvahiseng haime tou nêrau zeu naique aupeneng ov haise auveucaute baï hëveng somm coualéfahide téleu rése zeu op-eu botteun.

—Harry Mathews



I had printed a second sign, two feet by three feet, for a customer who had told me over the phone the colors were all wrong on the first sign. I agreed to print another and deliver it myself.

It was extremely crowded on the bus and everyone was in a bad mood. I stood with the sign against my body, frightened someone would break it. Two men, one with a ridiculous neck, were arguing, and the man with the ridiculous neck took an empty seat. I mention this because I really could have used that seat – the sign that leaned against my leg was being bent by a large man’s stomach.

I was several minutes late to meet the customer at the coffee shop, but he never showed up. I waited for half an hour. When I looked at the sign, I noticed it was for an art opening at 7:00 p.m. The time had already passed.

While walking back to the bus stop, I saw the man with the ridiculous neck from the bus again, talking with a friend of his about an extra button on his coat. The friend, was the customer. They were outside the art gallery, dozens of people admiring the man’s ridiculous neck and placing bids to caress it. I saw an empty easel outside the door, and unnoticed, put the sign up and ran away.

—Shane Jones


Set Theory

On the S bus, let us consider the set Ƨ of seated passengers and the set U of upright passengers.  At a particular stop is located the set P of people that are waiting.  Let C be the set of passengers that get on; this is a subset of P and is itself the union of the set Cʹ of passengers that remain on the platform and of the set C ̋ of those who go and sit down.  Demonstrate that the set C ̋ is empty.
H being the set of cool cats and {ɦ} the intersection of H and of Cʹ, reduced to a single element.  Following the surjection of the feet of ɦonto those of y (any element of Cʹ that differs from ɦ), the yield is the set W of words pronounced by the element ɦ.  Set C ̋  having become non-empty, demonstrate that it is composed of the single element ɦ.

Now let Pʹ equal the set of pedestrians to be found in front of the Gare Saint-Lazare, {ɦ, ɦʹ} the intersection of H and of Pʹ, B being the set of buttons on the overcoat belonging to ɦ, Bʹ the set of possible locations of said buttons according to ɦʹ, demonstrate that the injection of B into Bʹ is not a bijection.

—Raymond Queneau
Translated by Chris Clarke


I Accuse

Gentlemen, what will I not accuse?  I will accuse the S bus, swollen up like a balloon and crowded like a rabbit warren.  I accuse the noon hour and the form of the platform.  I accuse the youth of that young man and the length of his neck, and further still the nature of the ribbon that is not a ribbon that he wore around his hat.  I accuse the jostling and the remonstrance, the whining, and the vacant seat to which that young man scurried, his protestation complete.

—Raymond Queneau
Translated by Chris Clarke


Raymond Queneau, Harry Mathews, Shane Jones, and Chris Clarke

Raymond Queneau (1903-1976) has been one of the most powerful forces in shaping literature for the past fifty years. Harry Mathews is the author of many extraordinary works of fiction including The Journalist, Cigarettes, and My Life in CIA.
Shane Jones is the author of Light Boxes and Daniel Fights a Hurricane. Chris Clarke was born in Western Canada in 1976. He studies French literature and translation studies in New York City. His translations include work by Pierre MacOrlan and Eric Chevillard.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 12-JAN 13

All Issues