‘exercices De Style’  by raymond Queneau

‘Exercises de Style’ (‘Exercises in Style‘) is one of the most famous works of French author, Raymond Queneau. Published in 1947, this book is a collection of retellings of the same story, each in a different style. The plot line is simple: the narrator of the story catches the number 84 bus where he witnesses a quarrel between two passengers. Two hours later, he again sees one of the passengers at the Gare St-Lazare in Paris getting advice on how to add a button to his overcoat.

In truth, the plot line is banal. However, the 99 different ways in which Queneau recounts the tale is what makes the book so unique. Through the different styles of writing, Queneau demonstrates both his literary and comic ability in equal measure. His ability to tell the same story is such a wide range of styles, including through onomatopoeia, the sonnet form and litotes, is quite fantastic.

Here at the Babylangues office, we particularly enjoyed Queneau’s ‘Poor lay Zanglay’ chapter where he deliberately misspells every French word so that when read aloud, it sounds like an Englishman with a comically terrible French accent is reading the novel!

The book is very short and each exercice de style is only a few sentences long so we think this is a great book to dip into during your time in France!

Find more French book recommendations HERE.