Friday, 30 September 2016

An Exercise in Style - introduction.


My son went to art school.

The art school is in France.

They gave him a book to read – Exercises de style by Raymond Queneau.

The book is French.

He read it.

He liked it .

He told me about it.

I thought – that sounds interesting.

I got a translated into English version – I’m lazy.

I went online to get a bit of background and I learnt that Mr Queneau’s book – “recalled the famous 33rd chapter of the 1512 rhetorical guide of Desiderius Erasmus".

I thought – that sounds interesting.

I looked it up.

It turns out to be a best seller.

I thought – that’s interesting, I don’t have a copy.

I further learnt that it was “widely used for teaching how to rewrite pre-existing texts, and how to incorporate them in a new composition. Erasmus systematically instructed on how to embellish, amplify, and give variety to speech and writing.”

I thought – maybe i could use that on this blog.

Apparently in chapter 33 he offers up 195 variations on a single sentence.

"Your letter pleased me greatly"

I thought – 195, that’s a lot!

Mr Queneau, who worked with a paragraph, offers up 99 versions.

I thought – that’s a lot.

But I still liked the idea so I thought  - well, I’ll let Mr Queneau’s book be the inspiration but I’ll follow my own nose along the way and I’ll go for a month of posts. That seems to have a nice ‘completeness’ to it.

It’s that or a whole year really isn’t it?

According to the foreword in my copy – penned by Umbert Eco – “it would appear that Queneau wasn’t working to an overall plan. They’re not in alphabetical order, nor do they increase in complexity.”

He goes on to explain that MR Queneau took a few personal liberties with the style exercises along the way.

I thought – that’s good then.

So that’s what I’ve done.

I’ve taken a post from this blog that originally appeared in these pages near the end of November 2012 and tried to rewrite it again and again following some of the exercises in Mr Queneau’s book – and therefore perhaps in Mr Erasmus’s – and I’ve played around with my own ideas including perspective.

Starts tomorrow.

I wish I was at Art School.


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