Posted by: Sally Ingraham | February 2, 2011

Spending a Snowy Day With Raymond Queneau

I was going to go tubing today with some friends, but due to the severe snow storm raging outside I am instead reading Witch Grass and listening to Broken Bells.

I am fairly certain that I will like this book. 30 pages in and I am delighted by the style and the flow of events. I am also pleased to be in the company of an author who said this:

After all, why shouldn’t we demand a certain effort from the reader? We always explain everything to him. In the end, he gets fed up with being treated with such contempt.

Do I indeed! I am eager to devote a certain effort to Queneau, and I feel that such effort will be rewarded.

Here’s The High Road by Broken Bells for your listening pleasure.


  1. I recently read Queneau’s Exercises in Style and have been on the lookout for my next one. Witch Grass looks interesting, I’m curious to see what you think of it!

    • I definitely want to read Exercises in Style! Part of the reason I’m reading Witch Grass first is because it comes in one of NYRB’s lovely editions and has been sitting on my TBR shelf for a few months. I didn’t realize it was the first book he wrote – I’m glad I’m starting with it.

  2. You got the storm? I live in a notoriously snowy city and it missed us. We got 2-4 inches last night. Wheee.

    • Yup, we got about a foot of snow. I’m pretty sore from shoveling…and the piles of snow around my driveway are taller than me! 🙂

  3. Good for you for the Queneau, but “f winter” already (even though it did score me a free day off from work today)!

    • I’m pretty excited about tackling my second Oulipo member, and so far so good. Less good…all that snow. You must have even more where you are. The tubing would have cheered my winter spirit, but the shoveling quelled it pretty thoroughly. Oh well. At least the groundhog didn’t see his shadow!

  4. Ooh, I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts on the Queneau; I too am convinced I will love it when I get to it. Feeling a little guilty when I look outside at the beautiful sunny weather we’re having on the west coast!

    • Why feel guilty? We had beautiful sunny weather today too. It was about 20 degrees – I didn’t even need my hat! 🙂

  5. I read Exercices de style and Zazie dans le métro that is absolutely great (sorry for the French title but I have no clue if it was translated or not). Hunt it down if you can get a translation. I think it also a movie. He experiments with language, might be a challenge for a translator. Wonder what Witch Grass is in French?

    • Yay, there IS a translation of Zazie in the Metro (translated by Barbara Wright, who translated Witch Grass), and it sounds delightful. And yes, it is also a movie. I’ll have to look for both. The French title of Witch Grass is Le Chiendent – Chiendent is a weed, couch grass, known in parts of North America as witch grass. The English title of the book was formerly The Bark Tree, which is interesting…

  6. Ah yes, Le Chiendent. I haven’t seen the movie but think I read it is good. I enjoyed the book.

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