Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Raymond Queneau

Raymond Queneau (1903 – 1976) was a French poet and novelist and the co-founder of Ouvroir de littérature potentielle (Oulipo).
Queneau performed military service as a zouave in Algeria and Morocco during the years 1925–1926. Queneau was drafted in 1939 after Germany's invasion of Poland, but he was demobilized in 1940. Through the remainder of World War II, he and his family lived with the painter Élie Lascaux in Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat.
In 1924 Queneau met and briefly joined the Surrealists, but never fully shared in the methods of automatic writing or Surrealist ultra-left politics. Like many surrealists, he entered psychoanalysis—however, not in order to stimulate his creative abilities, but for personal reasons.
Queneau questioned the Surrealist support of the USSR in 1926. He remained on cordial terms with André Breton, although he also continued associating with Simone Kahn, after Breton split up with her. Breton usually demanded that his followers ostracize his former girlfriends. It would have been difficult for Queneau to avoid Simone, however, since he married her sister, Janine, in 1928. The year that Breton left Simone, she sometimes traveled around France with her sister and Queneau.
By 1929, Queneau had separated himself significantly from Breton and the Surrealists. In 1930 Queneau participated in Un Cadavre (A Corpse, 1930), a vehemently anti-Breton pamphlet.
For Boris Souvarine's La Critique sociale (1930–34), Queneau mostly wrote brief reviews. One characterized Raymond Roussel as one whose "imagination combines passion of mathematician with rationality of the poet." He wrote more scientific than literary reviews: on Pavlov, on Vernadsky (from whom he got a circular theory of sciences), and a review of a book on the history of equestrian caparisons by an artillery officer. He also helped with writing passages on Engels and mathematical dialectic for Bataille's article, "A critique of the foundations of Hegelian dialectic."

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