Jan Kaus: Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style

Raymond Queneau (1903-1976), French novelist and founder of the innovative literary group Oulipo, published his book Exercises in Style in 1947. It tells a perfectly trivial story about a fight that breaks out on a bus in central Paris, an occurrence so common it barely deserves a mention. The importance of the book lies in the fact that the same mundane motif is told in 99 different ways. Queneau uses all kinds of registers, styles and genres, taking inspiration from the highest end of the history of fiction, as well as the everyday. This way, Queneau turns fiction into a real cornucopia and demonstrates the formal possibilities of language. However, there is another important aspect – in 2007, Ain Kaalep, Jana Porila and Triinu Tamm translated the book into Estonian. This is one of the most exciting translations into Estonian in the last decade, because they could not translate many versions word for word, so they opted for translating the idea. Since Queneau’s book is not only didactic, but also funny, it is perfect for a live reading. Thus, writer Jan Kaus will take on a large share of the 99 stories.

The event is in Estonian.


Jan Kaus


Estonian Writers’ Union