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Tyyliharjoituksia by Raymond Queneau
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Tyyliharjoituksia (original 1947; edition 1991)

by Raymond Queneau, Pentti Salmenranta

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1,614364,501 (3.93)84
Member:Ritax
Title:Tyyliharjoituksia
Authors:Raymond Queneau
Other authors:Pentti Salmenranta
Info:Helsingissä : Otava, 1991.(nid.)
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:yhteiskunnalliset ilmiöt:kaunokirjallisuus, sanataide, kokeellinen kirjallisuus

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Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau (1947)

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English (25)  French (5)  Dutch (2)  Italian (2)  Swedish (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Queneau sets for himself the challenge of writing the same story, and it is a very slight story indeed, using several different styles and techniques. This edition also includes the efforts of current writers who have taken up the challenge. The story is something like this, a rather pathetic and petulant specimen of man with an overlong neck and a hat with an eccentric band quarrels with another passenger on an overcrowded bus Our hero, as it were, accuses the other gentleman of jostling him, on purpose, no less. Our star then throws himself upon the first available seat. Later in the day the narrator sees the petulant fellow being advised as to the placement of the button of his coat. Queneau's tour de force is to tell this same mundane story multiple ways. Some of his renditions are laugh until you cry funny, others, a bit forced. I would not recommend reading them all at once because the exercise then seems tedious. One or two as a treat after dinner is more the way to go. Each rendition is accompanied by a quirky Thurberesque drawing. These are also assured to bring a few giggles. While Exercises in Style is often considered the author's masterpiece, I still reserve that designation for The Sunday of Life. ( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
Queneau sets for himself the challenge of writing the same story, and it is a very slight story indeed, using several different styles and techniques. This edition also includes the efforts of current writers who have taken up the challenge. The story is something like this, a rather pathetic and petulant specimen of man with an overlong neck and a hat with an eccentric band quarrels with another passenger on an overcrowded bus Our hero, as it were, accuses the other gentleman of jostling him, on purpose, no less. Our star then throws himself upon the first available seat. Later in the day the narrator sees the petulant fellow being advised as to the placement of the button of his coat. Queneau's tour de force is to tell this same mundane story multiple ways. Some of his renditions are laugh until you cry funny, others, a bit forced. I would not recommend reading them all at once because the exercise then seems tedious. One or two as a treat after dinner is more the way to go. Each rendition is accompanied by a quirky Thurberesque drawing. These are also assured to bring a few giggles. While Exercises in Style is often considered the author's masterpiece, I still reserve that designation for The Sunday of Life. ( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
Queneau sets for himself the challenge of writing the same story, and it is a very slight story indeed, using several different styles and techniques. This edition also includes the efforts of current writers who have taken up the challenge. The story is something like this, a rather pathetic and petulant specimen of man with an overlong neck and a hat with an eccentric band quarrels with another passenger on an overcrowded bus Our hero, as it were, accuses the other gentleman of jostling him, on purpose, no less. Our star then throws himself upon the first available seat. Later in the day the narrator sees the petulant fellow being advised as to the placement of the button of his coat. Queneau's tour de force is to tell this same mundane story multiple ways. Some of his renditions are laugh until you cry funny, others, a bit forced. I would not recommend reading them all at once because the exercise then seems tedious. One or two as a treat after dinner is more the way to go. Each rendition is accompanied by a quirky Thurberesque drawing. These are also assured to bring a few giggles. While Exercises in Style is often considered the author's masterpiece, I still reserve that designation for The Sunday of Life. ( )
  lucybrown | Sep 27, 2015 |
I returned to Queneau’s "Exercises in Style" in 2012 to help me think about contemporary “conceptual writing” and the unoriginality movement associated with Craig Dworkin, Marjorie Perloff, Kenneth Goldsmith, and others. These remarks start with the contemporary movement, and then I turn to Queneau.

1. The state of constrained writing
Currently rule-bound or constrained writing is associated with the movement broadly known as "conceptual writing," which itself blends several potentially different ideals. First there's an interest in unoriginality (in not creating new work, but quoting existing texts), but that is itself historically unoriginal. It develops ideas that Perloff has associated with Walter Benjamin, but I think are better assigned to Charles Reznikoff. (Reznikoff is Goldsmith's real rival in "New York: Capital of the Twentieth Century," not Benjamin.) Along with unoriginality goes a commitment to avoiding expression, affect, sentiment, emotion, or any representation of interiority or mental states; that is not original either, because it continues themes of modernism initiated by Duchamp and Dada. Both unoriginality and the movement against expression are often displayed in texts that are constrained by rules, as in Oulipo.

Conceptual writing's historical unoriginality is acknowledged in Dworkin’s own history, which presents conceptual writing as a belated development inspired by 1960s conceptualism in the visual arts. I don’t find Dworkin’s genealogy convincing: conceptualism in visual arts had different goals, was pushing against different constraints, and used different strategies, and was articulated using different theories: it does not belong with conceptual, unoriginal, and anti-expressive writing done 40 years later. The literature on conceptual writing could benefit by a different intellectual lineage, and also by engaging the literature on postmodernism in music. Richard Taruskin’s account of postwar “classical” music is especially good for its description of Boulez’s attempt to avoid expression in the late 1940s. Music has gone through many of the same fascinations and denials as conceptual poetry, but several decades earlier than the conceptual art Dworkin cites. Another source that isn’t cited in the conceptual poetry literature is Stanley Cavell’s “Music Discomposed,” written in 1960 as a response to Krenek’s "Sestina": Cavell is good on the radical mistrust of expression, which recurs today.

Conceptual writing performs its interests—in found texts, in avoiding expression, and in constraints—in an especially self-aware and systematic fashion, and that is in itself a kind of originality. In that sense conceptual writing is a typical belated avant-garde, as theorized by Peter Bürger and Hal Foster, with the attendant lack of critical purchase and complicity with the conditions of production.

It has been widely said that Goldsmith’s books are more conceptual than readable. (A minority of readers have also insisted that Goldsmith’s books are compulsively readable precisely because they seem unreadable: but that shows a desire to find expression precisely where expression has ostensibly been excluded—another theme well articulated in the late 1940s in music, especially in the Darmstadt school.) What can make it interesting to read an unoriginal, intentionally "expressionless," rule-bound project? One reason we read is to see the effect of the constraints: whether they are legible, or can be discovered; how they distort whatever writing they are imposed upon; whether they produce new kinds of affect. Another reason it can be interesting to read a constrained writing project is to discover exceptions, flaws, lapses, and liberties: we read for diversions from the rule. And this brings me back to Queneau's book.

2. Queneau
In "Exercises in Style" there are a dozen or more kinds of deviations from the author’s own constraints, and those deviations are repeated so that they become themes in their own right. They are, for me, the source of interest in "Exercises in Style," and the reason why Queneau is more engaging than Goldsmith or other contemporary writers. Here are a few forms of deviation in "Exercises in Style." (These remarks are based on the English translation, which departs from the original in unusual ways: but those departures aren’t pertinent here.)

(a) The logic of individual entries sometimes fails. “Animism,” in which the story is told from the point of view of a hat, runs into trouble when “he (the hat) suddenly went and sat down.” (“He” didn’t; the man under him (the hat) sat down.) The end of that entry falls apart into ellipses: “…an extra button… on his overcoat… to tell him that… him… (the hat).”)

(b) Some entries add more to the story. “Official Letter” is the first to do this: it adds two paragraphs, which feel like the start of a short story.

(c) Some entries fail to do what they promise. “Logical analysis” is just a series of brief statement, which must have reminded queneau of syllogisms: “Me. / Me. / Me. That’s the third character, narrator. / Words. / Words. / Words. That’s what was said.”

(d) Some entries contradict others, building up a Rashomon-style conflict. “Insistence” tells us that the bus was full “because it was 12 noon”; “Official Letter” says the bus was overloaded because the driver “had accepted an overload of several candidates.” (pp. 54, 63).

(e) Some entries permit themselves brief additions at the end, and others don’t. “Ignorance” adds a surprising sentence at the end: “For instance, I remember my father was always telling me about…”

(f) The “Unexpected” last sentence in the last entry is therefore not a surprise: its form is the same as the brief additions in several other entries.

(g) Some entries require and display skill; others do neither. “Noble” is exceptionally skilfull, for example. “Free Verse” includes a nod to Lautréamont.

(h) Some entries do several things at once: they could have been split. “Cross-examination” also has some odd verbal play that has nothing to do with cross-examining. (“it proved to be that of a slightly hypotonic paranoiac cyclothymic…”)

(i) Some entries use the key concept, or title, as an excuse to invent something entirely different. “Spectral” is an entirely new project.

(j) There are three basic kinds of entries: (i) Metaphors, deliberately overdone, like “Gastronomical,” “Botanical,” “Medical.” (ii) Genres of writing, such as “Noble” and “Cross-examination,” and the ode and the operetta. (iii) Classical rhetorical categories, abused. Why aren’t these the only kinds of entries? Why aren’t they ordered? How did he decide on them? These are all sources of divergence from order.

(k) Some entries are based on classical rhetorical categories, but they abuse those categories. “Metathesis,” “Antiphrasis,” “Paragoge,” “Epenthesis,” and others apply the rhetorical tropes, intended for lines of poetry, to individual words. Why, then, does Queneau not similarly abuse his examples of genres of writing, or metaphors?

This is, of course, an open-ended list. But it is not an infinite list, and that’s why it’s a source of interest in reading the book. “Flaws” like these—actually deliberate diversions, which the author permitted himself—are why books like "Exercises in Style" are engaging, and why contemporary conceptual ("unoriginal," anti-expressive, rule-bound) writing often isn’t. It is not necessary to
smuggle expression in by performing texts, or to permit certain kinds of expression (such as affect, as if it were separable from expression), in order to create troubled and compelling texts, the sort that reward reading as well as thinking. All that is necessary is to ruin your own rules, and to do so in a symptomatic and puzzling manner. (And to return one last time to music and Boulez: this was all done, seventy years ago!, in music, by Boulez and others in his generation.)

Revised March 2016 ( )
  JimElkins | Aug 20, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Raymond Queneauprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bartezzaghi, StefanoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dresmé, NicoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eco, UmbertoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harig, LudwigÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Helmlé, EugenÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kis, D.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kousbroek, RudyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kousbroek, RudyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ouředník, PatrikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wright, BarbaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dans l'S, une heure d'affluence.
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Book description
Haiku summary
Quatre-vingts dix-neuf fois
(les Belges diraient "nonante-neuf")
Une histoire de bus.
(thorold)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0811207897, Paperback)

A twentysomething bus rider with a long, skinny neck and a goofy hat accuses another passenger of trampling his feet; he then grabs an empty seat. Later, in a park, a friend encourages the same man to reorganize the buttons on his overcoat. In Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, this determinedly pointless scenario unfolds 99 times in twice as many pages. Originally published in 1947 (in French), these terse variations on a theme are a wry lesson in creativity. The story is told as an official letter, as a blurb for a novel, as a sonnet, and in "Opera English." It's told onomatopoetically, philosophically, telegraphically, and mathematically. The result, as translator Barbara Wright writes in her introduction, is "a profound exploration into the possibilities of language." I'd say it's a refresher course of sorts, but it's more like a graduate seminar. After all, how many of us are familiar with terms such as litote, alexandrine, apheresis, and epenthesis in the first place?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:22 -0400)

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