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Profile of Raymond Queneau
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|Also Know As:
|Date of Birth:
||21st February 1903
|Place of Birth:
||Le Havre, Seine-Maritime, Haute-Normandie, France
|French Literary History
16th Century - 17th Century
18th Century -19th Century
20th Century - Contemporary
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Novelists - Playwrights
Poets - Essayists
Short Story Writers
Raymond Queneau (February 21, 1903 – October 25, 1976) was a French poet and novelist.
Born in Le Havre, Normandy, Queneau was the only child of Auguste Queneau and Joséphine Mignot. He received his first baccalauréat in 1919 for Latin and Greek, and a second in 1920 for philosophy, then studied at the Sorbonne (1921–1923) where he was a fair student of both letters and mathematics, graduating with certificates in philosophy and psychology. In 1924 he met and briefly joined the Surrealists, but found that their approach of letting the unconscious mind create did not suit him, and he broke with André Breton in 1929. Queneau performed military service as a zouave in Algeria and Morocco during the years 1925–1926. He married Janine Kahn in 1928, with whom he had a single son Jean-Marie in 1934, and remained with her until her death in 1972. Queneau was drafted in 1939 but demobilized in 1940, and through the remainder of World War II, he and his family lived with the painter Elie Lascaux in Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat.
Queneau spent much of his life working for French publisher Gallimard, where he began as a reader in 1938, rose to be general secretary, and eventually became director of l’Encyclopédie de la Pléiade in 1956. During some of this time, he also taught at l’École nouvelle de Neuilly. He entered the Collège de ‘Pataphysique in 1950, where he became Satrap, and was elected to the Académie Goncourt in 1951, l’Académie de l’Humour in 1952, and the jury of the Cannes Film Festival 1955–1957. During this time, Queneau also acted as a translator, notably for Amos Tutuola's The Palm Wine Drinkard (l'Ivrogne dans la brousse) in 1953.
As an author, Queneau came to general attention in France with the publication in 1959 of his novel Zazie dans le métro, and with the film adaptation by Louis Malle in 1960 at the height of the Nouvelle Vague movement in French film. Zazie explores colloquial language as opposed to 'standard' written French; a distinction which is perhaps more marked in French than in some other languages. The first word of the book, the alarmingly long "Doukipudonktan" is a phonetic transcription of "D'où qu'ils puent donc tant ?" "Why do they stink so much?".
Even before the founding of the Oulipo in 1960, Queneau was attracted to mathematics as a source of inspiration. He became a member of la Société mathématique de France in 1948. Elements of a text, including seemingly trivial details such as the number of chapters, were things that had to be predetermined, perhaps even calculated. Perhaps not surprisingly, his final work, Les fondements de la littérature d’après David Hilbert (1976), attempts to explore the foundations of literature by quasi-mathematical derivations from certain textual axioms.
Queneau is buried with his parents in the old cemetery of Juvisy-sur-Orge, in Essone outside Paris.
- Le Chiendent or The bark-tree (1933)
- Gueule de pierre (1934).
- Les Derniers jours or The last days (1936)
- Odile (1937)
- Les Enfants du Limon (1938)
- Un Rude hiver (1939) or A Hard Winter (1948)
- Les temps mêlés (1941)
- Pierrot mon ami or Pierrot (1942)
- Si tu t’imagines (1942)
- Loin de Rueil or The skin of dreams (1944)
- En passant (1944)
- On est toujours trop bon avec les femmes or We always treat women too well (1947)
- Saint-Glinglin (1948)
- Le Journal intime de Sally Mara (1950)
- Le Dimanche de la vie or The Sunday of life (1952)
- Zazie dans le métro or Zazie in the metro (1959)
- Les Fleurs bleues or Between blue and blue (1965)
- Le Vol d'Icare or The flight of Icarus (1968)
- Chêne et chien (1937)
- Les Ziaux (1943)
- L'Instant fatal (1946)
- Petite cosmogonie portative (1950)
- Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes or Hundred Thousand Billion Poems (1961)
- Le chien à la mandoline (1965)
- Battre la campagne or Beating the bushes (1967)
- Courir les rues or Pounding the pavements (1967)
- Fendre les flots (1969)
- Morale élémentaire (1975)
Essays and articles
- Bâtons, chiffres et lettres (1950)
- Pour Une Bibliothèque Idéale (1956)
- Entretiens avec Georges Charbonnier (1962)
- Bords (1963)
- Une Histoire modèle (1966)
- Le Voyage en Grèce (1973)
- Traité des vertus démocratiques (1993)
- Un Cadavre (1930) with Jacques Baron, Georges Bataille, J.-A. Boiffard, Robert Desnos, Michel Leiris, Georges Limbour, Max Morise, Jacques Prévert, Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, and Roger Vitrac.
- Exercises de Style or Exercises in style (1947)
- Les fondements de la littérature d’après David Hilbert (1976)
- Contes et propos (1981)
- Journal 1939-1940 (1986)
- Journaux 1914-1965 (1996)
- Life and works: http://www.queneau.net/
- Interview: http://www.centerforbookculture.org/interviews/interview_queneau.html
- Article: http://www.themodernword.com/scriptorium/queneau.html
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