The Plot Of Exercises In Style Is Quite Simple A Man Gets Into An Argument With Another Passenger On A Bus However, This Anecdote Is Told Ninety Nine Times, Each In A Radically Different Style, As A Sonnet, An Opera, In Slang, And With Many Permutations This Virtuoso Set Of Variations Is A Linguistic Rust Remover, And A Guide To Literary Forms


10 thoughts on “Exercices de style

  1. says:

    MetaFrom what point of view should I review the book Evidently from all possible points of view.SnobbishNeedless to say, I am reading the original French edition I can hardly believe that his delicate linguistic irony would survive translation into English Quelle horreur VulgarI laughed until I wet myself Well, I should know better than to read this kind of book in the bathroom.PedanticIf nothing else, very educational I have already learned the names of two figures of speech I didn t previously know.AnxiousWait maybe someone else has already done this joke Let me check the reviews Oh, thank GoodReads, they haven t PessimisticThe idea is certainly amusing at first But I doubt he ll be able to keep it up for 99 different versions.GrudgingAlright this isn t as easy as one first thinks I m not even up to double figures, and I m already running out of ideas He was a smart guy.MinimalistUnique.Conscience strickenI m doing this I should be working But he is quite inspiring.PracticalI will put the book on the coffee table, and read a couple of pages every now and then I don t think you re meant to go cover to cover Also, living in Cambridge as we do, I am sure that at least half our visitors will enjoy leafing through it.


  2. says:

    Whenever I sit in a Caf with an espresso and a croissant, I sometimes like to think that Georges Perec once sat exactly where I am sitting Whenever on the M tro, I am somehow reminded of Luc Besson s 1985 film Subway Whenever I climb into a taxi, it s just in the hope that the driver isn t some knife wielding maniac The next time I happen to hop onto a bus, then there is every chance, Exercises in Style will immediately come to mind Not 99 times though, just the once Briefly tied in with the French Surrealist movement before breaking away, Raymond Queneau presents an incident on a bus between two passengers, where one accuses the other of stepping on his toes After an exchange of words, the young man moves to another seat Then later that same day, he is seen standing at a train station, where a friend is advising him to adjust one of the buttons on his overcoat.And that s pretty much it.Literally nothing else happens.And by the end of the first page you have learned everything you are going to know about the events on which the book focuses.But what follows, is the same incident played over and over and over again Ninety nine times to be exact In different ways, told in different voices, different styles, and different points of view It s like being trapped by a comic peerless prankster writing and rewriting and rewriting But here s the thing it was such a joy to read The laughably and ingeniously simple premise results in one of twentieth century fiction s best show off acts Each section has a utilitarian title Hesitation, precision, Ignorance, Insistence, Awkward, Reactionary, to name a few The core story could even have been something Queneau himself witnessed, and wrote about it simply because essentially it s of little or no importance But it s a random anecdote that holds many ideas behind it What s great is Queneau actually manages to transcend his own absurd restrictions by remaining punctiliously within each piece, at all times The book somehow, and I don t know how, contrives to feel kind of profound even though it appears at first to be pointless.One is left thinking by the end, of the endless possibilities that any simple story could be told Exercises in Style has an effect on the reader that really opens the mind It illuminates the reality of multiple perspectives from which everything can be viewed The best way to read this I found it helped anyway is in as little time as possible, otherwise it s pleasures start to thin out It went down a treat for me accompanied by a few beers.


  3. says:

    Only one book has ever changed my life god, if only things were so simple that a book could change your life and that is Joyce s Ulysses, and that only in terms of my ideas of dedication and rigor It certainly didn t unearth profound aspects of my personality that until that point were latent, it didn t give me any guiding path in life to tread, it didn t suddenly instill value into things that I before considered to be without value What it primarily did was to show me the results of dedication not only on Joyce s part, but on my part that is, that if I dedicated myself to reading and rereading and understanding this at first baffling text, that the reward would be a thousand times the effort I put into it That Joyce was kind enough, generous enough, to create a work so complex, that resonates on so many levels and in so many poetic and humorous and satiric and intellectual and dramatic tones and most of all, best of all, that he demands that his reader work a fraction as hard as he did Because he knew that what he possessed inside himself, if expressed correctly, was capable of bringing a shimmer of aesthetic recognition across the imagination unlike anything that had come before or after There really is only literature before and after Joyce, no matter your opinions on Ulysses itself It is the Theory of Relativity for the arts It destroyed and absorbed everything that came before it and influenced everything that came after.From what I know of Queneau s life, it too was changed by Ulysses He considered it a magical act His reckoning with Joyce came after his graduation from the Sorbonne with a degree in philosophy and mathematics, where one of his great influences was Hegel Now, I don t know much about Hegel s Absolute Idealism but I do know that it was a somewhat optimistic view of how the mind comes into contact with nature, and that philosophical problems are brought to resolution by integrating contradictions into our practices, rather than eliminating them or seeking to answer things by some ultimate conclusion In other words, a dialogue rather than a solve all was at the heart of our thinking and perception An obvious aspect of this is that nature and our participation in it are all part of an extremely lengthy some might say infinite I won t process The particulars of the universe are always coming into being by a process through which they are in a contradictory communication with what they relate to, come into contact with I assure you all this babble is leading to something I hope What I m attempting to say is that Ulysses represents the expression of an absorption and assimilation of all the facets of the history of literature, and with Ulysses the history of literature ends That is to say it necessarily begins anew This is not a review of Ulysses, and this won t go on much longer, I promise.So what does an extremely intelligent human being interested in writing literature after the reckoning with Joyce do Joyce himself had no recourse but, after annihilating the novel, to annihilate language itself that is, create it anew with Finnegans Wake But what do the rest of us do We look at literature with new eyes, we look for where it can go now I think that is exactly the point Queneau was making with Exercises In Style It attempts an observation and notation of what exactly language can do with fiction post Joyce Beckett did this too Many people did this, are doing this This is what postmodernism is all about, coming to terms with Joyce However, in contrast to Beckett, Queneau s profundities are always masked in the language of the quotidian, the everyday, the comedic, the banal An utterly banal scene is recounted 99 times, in 99 styles In these 99 recitations of the same scene we begin finally to focus on the medium and not the message, or the Hegelian contradiction or dialogue between the medium and the message or lack of message In some ways, the really revolutionary aspect of Exercises In Style is that it is so not revolutionary it retells a scene that any of us might observe on any given day but that it poses questions about the fundamentals of our reading experience, and therefore our living experience.


  4. says:

    UPDATE Queneau s Exercises in Style is given the Geoff Wilt treatment in Verbivoracious Festschrift Volume Three The Syllabus Who the fuck writes the same thing 99 times over Pretentious twit Don t bother A masterpiece of style, grammar, innovation, elegance, a tour de force of wizardry, erudition, humour and social commentary Chapeau M sieur Queneau I didn t really get the headings Were those meant to be chapters Mate, don t be late, address the great and adumbrate, there ll be a spate, the rules conflate, all congregate and share the plate Wright achieves that rare symbiosis between writer and translator, extending original material into witty, heady realms of delightful invention Societe pour Les Jeux de Maux You are reading this review and wondering when it will all, surely, end ayiay maay oingay otay aysay ayiay eallyray njoyedeay tiay eryvay uchmay, othbay rightWay ndaay ueneauQay reaay rilliantbay eezjay ddingaay yaay otay vereay ordway reaksbay ymay ittlelay indmay Personally, I have no idea why anybody would want to read the same story 99 times over, let alone write it Must have nothing better to do with herhis life Sniff Not like some of us Oh, Queneau But you know, writers have this metathing going on these days, you know Just have to show their practice forms, you know, can t be satisfied with just writing a book, oh no, they have to show their working, you know We used to do that in school For maths, you know Book Words Repeated Character Same Scene No change Conclusion Run the logic past again, will you This book has no plot and no characters There were a number of reviews written about a book called Exercises in Style which was actually an exercise in style about another book called Exercices de Style which was about a not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon on a bus in Paris apparently arguing with an older man on a bus in Paris because the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon on the bus in Paris thought that the older man on the bus in Paris was treading on the not yet middle aged toes of the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon on the bus in Paris and later the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon no longer on the bus in Paris met a friend dressed similarly who apparently was telling the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon no longer on the bus in Paris that the button on the coat of the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon no longer on the bus in Paris was placed too low on the coat of the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon no longer on the bus in Paris and needed to be placed higher on the coat of the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon no longer on the bus in Paris and these other reviews seemed to suggest that there were as many views regarding this book about a not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon on a bus in Paris apparently arguing with an older man on a bus in Paris because the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon on the bus thought that the older man on the bus in Paris was treading on the not yet middle aged toes of the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon on a bus in Paris and later the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon no longer on the bus in Paris met a friend dressed similarly who apparently was telling the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon no longer on the bus in Paris that the button on the coat of the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon no longer on the bus in Paris was placed too low on the coat of the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon no longer on the bus in Paris and needed to be placed higher on the coat of the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon no longer on the bus in Paris as there were variations on the theme about a not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon on a bus in Paris apparently arguing with an older man on a bus in Paris because the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon on the bus in Paris thought that the older man on the bus in Paris was treading on the not yet middle aged toes of the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon on the bus in Paris and later the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon no longer on the bus in Paris met a friend dressed similarly who apparently was telling the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon no longer on the bus in Paris that the button on the coat of the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon no longer on the bus in Paris was placed too low on the coat of the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon no longer on the bus in Paris and needed to be placed higher on the coat of the not yet middle aged man with a long neck and a hat with a string and not a ribbon no longer on the bus in Paris Zis eez reelly going tu tu far wiz ze pharrow dayee Ayee ate it, zis eez tripe.


  5. says:

    One very effective way I have found to squeeze the juice of wisdom from the books I read is to write a book review, which forces me to formulate my ideas and opinions in precise and clear at least that is my intent language However with Raymond Queneau s Exercises in Style we have a book that contains not only wisdom but many flavors of linguistic magic Thus, I need to do than simply write a book review I found the solution I read Barbara Wright s translation aloud, recording my voice on a digital recorder, and then listen while taking my walks.Each of the 99 variations of this short tale of a young man with his long neck and felt hat is worth reading and listening to multiple times matter of fact, it would be an aesthetic injustice to read through this novel once or twice and put it down, thinking you finished the book and did the author justice No, no, no that would be anti Queneau Should I attempt to be linguistically clever, verbally crafty, syntactically cunning, offering astute wordplay, adroit repartee or ingenious punning I should not and I will not I will simply say how Queneau s novel is a one of a kind adventure into language and the ways language can be used to tell a story And, oh, lest I forget the chapter heading are complete with fanciful, cartoonish illustrations of humans posing as the beginning letters of words, making the entire work that much charming and piquant Thank you Stefan Themerson for your artwork and thank you New Directions for your publishing creativity.Barbara Wright does the English translation And what a translation A work of art in its own right no pun intended Barbara Wright s first career was that of a pianist and she found translating and playing piano have a great deal in common She noted how both require an ability to, as she says in her own words, present artistic works to an audience in a manner acceptable and satisfying to the composer or writer and honest in their interpretation As by way of example, here is the first line of the chapter entitled Parechesis We read, On the butt end of a bulging bus which was transbustling an abundance of incubuses and Buchmanites from bumbledom towards their bungalows, a bumptious buckeen whose buttocks were remote from his bust and who was buttired in a boody ridiculous busby, buddenly had a bust up with a robust buckra who was bumping into him Buccaneer, buzz off, you re butting my bunions Now such a beautiful boutique of buzzes baffles the brain well, you get the idea I will stop there so as not to get carried away and bore.Now that I put the finishing touches on my review, I bid you ado as I am off to the park, digital recorder in hand, poised to listen to Exercises In Style, and by so listening to float up into an ocean of linguistic light and aesthetic bliss Tally ho with Raymond Queneau.French author Raymond Queneau, 1903 1976


  6. says:

    What story can be told about a brief bus ride and a button This insignificant and infinitesimal event can be turned into a surreal vision In the centre of the day, tossed among the shoal of travelling sardines in a coleopter with a big white carapace, a chicken with a long, feather less neck suddenly harangued one, a peace abiding one, of their number, and its parlance, moist with protest, was unfolded upon the airs Then, attracted by a void, the fledgling precipitated itself thereunto.In a bleak, urban desert, I saw it again that selfsame day, drinking the cup of humiliation offered by a lowly button.And it can be turned into a philosophical thesis Great cities alone can provide phenomenological spirituality with the essentialities of temporal and improbabilistic coincidences The philosopher who occasionally ascends into the futile and utilitarian inexistentiality of an S bus can perceive therein with the lucidity of his pineal eye the transitory and faded appearance of a profane consciousness afflicted by the long neck of vanity and the hatly plait of ignorance This matter, void of true entelechy, occasionally plunges into the categorical imperative of its recriminatory life force against the neo Berkleyan unreality of a corporeal mechanism unburdened by conscience This moral attitude then carries the unconscious of the two towards a void spatiality where it disintegrates into its primary and crooked elements.Philosophical research is then pursued normally by the fortuitous but anagogic encounter of the same being accompanied by its inessential and sartorial replica, which is noumenally advising it to transpose on the level of the understanding the concept of overcoat button situated sociologically too low.And also it may be turned into so many other smart things The skill and style can turn any negligible trifle into a masterpiece.In literature there are no bad themes, there are bad writers.


  7. says:

    , 99 , 4 5 .


  8. says:

    This is a lot of fun at the beginning as you realise exactly what Queneau has challenged himself to do here rewrite the same little scene about a gangly young man in a badly fitting overcoat and an odd hat, in different styles, ninety nine times After number twenty however, the various word play games are no longer quite as funny After number forty, you re pretty sceptical about Queneau s mental health By number sixty, you re seriously worried about your own By number eighty, you re seeing that gangly young man everywhere you go You skip to ninety nine in a desperate attempt to save your sanity but no, it is not to be, the last line is maddening than anything that went before you are left wondering who Theodore is and why Albert didn t recognise him when Theodore was advising the gangly young man in the odd hat how to alter his badly fitting overcoat in front of the Gare St Lazare But wait, is that little overcoat scene the primary, the ultimate exercise de style That would be a fine play on words indeed


  9. says:

    Blurb view spoiler Exercises in Style retells an apparently unremarkable tale ninety nine times, employing a variety of styles, ranging from sonnet to cockney to mathematical formula Too funny to be merely a pedantic thesis, this virtuoso set of themes and variations is a linguistic rust remover, a guide to literary forms and a demonstration of imagery and inventiveness hide spoiler


  10. says:

    Pearls before a swine Perhaps.It definitely takes a lot of talent for someone to tell one completely unremarkable story 99 times and still make a fun and readable book out of it What Queneau and the translator has done here is really clever work, no doubt And I can imagine this whole exercise must have been very amusing for him But that doesn t mean reading it will be just as enjoyable as writing it was These are exercises in writing in English originally French I do have some working knowledge of English, but nowhere enough to understand the nuances of the language I actually had to look up some of the chapter titles in the dictionary, most of which were technical terms related to linguistics and grammar Being illiterate in literary matters, I may not always be able to appreciate writing proficiency I read for fun, not for 99 exercises in reading People who have a better eye for word play, will probably enjoy this book better.My rating for this book kept fluctuating throughout There are some chapters for which I will easily give solid five stars But then there are others which seem entirely nonsensical and impractical No one will ever use them for any real writing Also, writing style needs to be suitable to the content Some of the styles seem forced Then there a bunch of chapters which were perhaps added just to bring the number to 99 Add remove a sound to from beginning middle end of each word permutations of nth alphabets wordsThese already make than 10 chapters.Another clever thing Queneau did was to keep the chapters very short Otherwise I would have skipped many of them after reading only a few sentences to figure out the style.In case anyone is wondering what the story is, here it is, in Interjections style Psst h m ah oh hem ah ha hey well oh pooh poof ow oo ouch hey eh h m pffft Well hey pooh oh h m right Completely unrelated aside This reminds me of my visit to MoMA One of the works of art was 10 million years , basically all the numbers from 1 to 10 million written in 10 fat books On the artist s part, it must have taken a lot of patience and hard work It probably fed some sort of obsession of his But no matter what it meant to him, to me it was just BLAH I can be quite a lousy museum goer.