Book review: Exercises in Style, By Raymond Queneau Alma


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The Independent Culture

Midway between Lewis Carroll and Jacques Derrida, in a deliriously witty dimension of its own, lies Queneau's Exercises in Style.

In 1947, the peerless prankster of French literature published 99 short variations on a humdrum anecdote about a row on a bus.

Although he drew on the figures of classical rhetoric, it's the delight in pastiche - back-slang to Spoonerisms, sonnets to haikus, medical to "abusive" language - that lends such zest to his versions.

Barbara Wright's dazzling translation matches this oddball classic step by step, pun by pun.