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Exercises in Style


A French modernist classic - a Parisian scene told ninety-nine different ways.

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 a new button on his overcoat.

Exercises in Style ― Queneau’s experimental masterpiece and a hallmark book of the Oulipo literary group ― retells this unexceptional tale ninety-nine times, employing the sonnet and the alexandrine, onomatopoeia and Cockney. An “Abusive” chapter heartily deplores the events; “Opera English” lends them grandeur. Queneau once said that of all his books, this was the one he most wished to see translated. He offered Barbara Wright his “heartiest congratulations,” adding: “I have always thought that nothing is untranslatable.Here is new proof.”

"Queneau’s Exercises in Style is a thrilling masterpiece and, in fact, one of the greatest stories in French literature."
― Vladimir Nabokov

"Exercises in Style was a revolution, a book that proclaimed its powerful ideas simply by pursuing their iron logic."
― The Washington Post

"What makes the book compelling is seeing this same, banal tale told through a huge variety of literary styles, from science fiction to rhyme, haiku to official letter. The variety in its repetition becomes at first odd, then hilarious as more and more absurd forms are chosen."
― The Huffington Post

"This witty, bizarre read is perfect for dipping into, or reading from cover to cover, for anybody who loves storytelling."
― The Huffington Post


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