‘Exercises in Style’ by Raymond Queneau

This list is definitely taking off on an exponential weirdness curve the longer it gets. Twelve is a lot of anything.

Next turn completely about-face in the garden maze of this thing, and walk through the hedge in front of you. Before you is the same short story, told ninety-nine different ways, or ninety-nine different short stories, depending on how you look at it. Queneau’s Exercises in Style are a classic of Modernist play and they’ve been re-issued recently by New Directions. I actually think British book reviewers and fiction writers have a bit of a Modernist over-reliance, a kind of Bloomsbury fetish, and it annoys me, but I’m making a notable exception for Queneau because his concept is so incredibly precious it somehow transcends its own preciousness and comes out the other side again. Anyhow, on that other thing, I’m really sick of Joyce and Woolf and pretending that Paris is the avant garde just sort of… because? It’s not 1996 or whatever. Get over it.

There is only one person in the whole world I forgive the over-adulation of Modernism and she knows who she is.

First published as Exercices de style, Gallimard, 1947. First published in translation by Barbara Wright, Gaberbocchus Press, 1958, and retranslated since. Currently available from Alma Classics, 2013.

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