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Raymond Queneau (Feb 21st, 1903 - October, 1976) was a French writer who founded the Ouvroir de litterature potentielle (OULIPO) who defines their movement as "the seeking of new structures and patterns which may be used by writers in any way they enjoy."

The group largely consisted of French writers and poets, mathematicians, and intellectuals, who using new techniques sought to broaden the scope and definition of literature by creating new exciting systems and permutations for creating words. These newly developed methods of "constrained writing" were mostly based on mathematics, but also consisted of lipograms, palindromes, and even flip books where reader's could put together their own poetry by aligning certain pages to create seemingly endless permutations. Notable members included French artist Marcel Duchamp and Italian novelist Italo Calvino.

The perfect introduction and one of Oulipo's flagship works would be Raymond Queaneau's "Exercises in Style" (1947) which consists of the same completely unremarkable scenario repeated 99 times according to 99 different styles. The very simple tale consists of a man boarding a bus, witnessing a man with a funny hat arguing with another passenger and then running into him later downtown and seeing him asking about a new button for overcoat. The same story is then repeated 99 times according to the different styles and results range from the humorous to the nonsensical. What at first may seem like a drab exercise in repetition becomes ultimately illuminating and broadens the scope of what one sees as the boundaries of writing.

The following is a link to the official OULIPO website (French only)


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Raymond Queneau





French Literature
George Perec