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Exercises in Style

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  5,466 Ratings  ·  404 Reviews
The plot of Exercises in Style is simple: a man gets into an argument with another passenger on a bus. However, this anecdote is told 99 more times, each in a radically different style, as a sonnet, an opera, in slang, and with many more permutations. This virtuoso set of variations is a linguistic rust-remover, and a guide to literary forms.
Paperback, 204 pages
Published February 17th 1981 by New Directions (first published 1947)
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Community Reviews

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From what point of view should I review the book? Evidently: from all possible points of view.


Needless to say, I am reading the original French edition. I can hardly believe that his delicate linguistic irony would survive translation into English. Quelle horreur!


I laughed until I wet myself. Well, I should know better than to read this kind of book in the bathroom.


If nothing else, very educational. I have already learned the names of two figures of speech I didn't prev
Glenn Russell
Jun 16, 2015 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books

One very effective way I have found to squeeze the juice of wisdom from the books I read is to write a review, which forces me to formulate my ideas and opinions in precise and clear (at least that is my intent) language. However, with Raymond Queneau's Exercises in Style, we have a book that contains not only wisdom but many flavors of linguistic magic. Thus, I need to do more than simply write a review. I found the solution: I read Barbara Wright's translation aloud, recording my voice on a di
May 04, 2015 Geoff rated it it was amazing
Only one book has ever “changed my life” (god, if only things were so simple that a book could change your life!) and that is Joyce’s Ulysses, and that only in terms of my ideas of dedication and rigor. It certainly didn’t unearth profound aspects of my personality that until that point were latent, it didn’t give me any guiding path in life to tread, it didn’t suddenly instill value into things that I before considered to be without value. What it primarily did was to show me the results of ded ...more
Scribble Orca
May 07, 2015 Scribble Orca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Scribble by: Barbara Wright
UPDATE: Queneau's Exercises in Style is given the Geoff Wilt treatment in Verbivoracious Festschrift Volume Three: The Syllabus.

-- Who the fuck writes the same thing 99 times over? Pretentious twit! Don't bother.

-- A masterpiece of style, grammar, innovation, elegance, a tour de force of wizardry, erudition, humour and social commentary. Chapeau M'sieur Queneau.

-- I didn't really get the headings. Were those meant to be chapters?

-- Mate, don't be late, address the great and adumbrate, there'll b
Ian "Marvin" Graye

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MJ Nicholls

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Nickolas the Kid
Aug 27, 2016 Nickolas the Kid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: easy-to-read, funny
Το βιβλίο αυτό ήταν σκέτη απόλαυση!


- Οτ λιβλιο ταυτό νατη τέσκη λαυπόαση
- Το βιβλίο ναούμ, ήταν σκέτη ναουμ απόλαυση ναούμ...
- Το αντικείμενο με το σκληρό εξώφυλλο και τα φύλλα με γράμματα προκάλεσε τέρψη οφθαλμών και σκέψης...

Κάπως έτσι λοιπόν ο συγγραφέας παραλλάσει την ιστορία ενός νεαρού σε ένα λεωφορείο και δημιουργεί 99 διαφορετικού τύπου ιστορίες, οι οποίες είναι απολαυστικές και αναδεικνύουν το μεγαλείο της γλώσσας και της συγγραφής!!!

4/5 αστεράκια. Το διάβασα απν
Feb 19, 2012 Megha rated it liked it

Pearls before a swine? Perhaps.

It definitely takes a lot of talent for someone to tell one completely unremarkable story 99 times and still make a fun and readable book out of it. What Queneau (and the translator) has done here is really clever work, no doubt. And I can imagine this whole exercise must have been very amusing for him. But that doesn't mean reading it will be just as enjoyable as writing it was.**

These are exercises in writing in English (originally French). I do have some working
This is a lot of fun at the beginning as you realise exactly what Queneau has challenged himself to do here: rewrite the same little scene about a gangly young man in a badly fitting overcoat and an odd hat, in different styles, ninety-nine times! After number twenty however, the various word play games are no longer quite as funny. After number forty, you’re pretty sceptical about Queneau's mental health. By number sixty, you’re seriously worried about your own. By number eighty, you’re seeing ...more
Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ (of badger and SNAKE)

(reread 09/13/15) The English translation better be good, because this? This is brilliant.

"Il y avait aujourd'hui dans l'autobus à côté de moi, sur la plate-forme, un de ces morveux comme on n'en fait guère, heureusement, sans ça je finirais par en tuer un."

PS. I would love to write my review as Raymond Queneau, that is to say, using several literacy techniques to relate the same story over and over and over again, but let's face it : my English needs improvement before.
I feel like this book's high average rating is caused mostly by the fact that the only people who would even know about it are the sort of people who'd like it. So, though I didn't hate it completely, I'm here to offer a dissenting opinion:

This book kind of sucks.

It's a short, anticlimactic anecdote about a scuffle on a bus, told in 99 different styles. I imagine this is already enough to turn off most people, but in case this still sounds really good to you, be apprised that none of those styl
Ουτε ένας ουτε δύο ουτε τρείς αλλα 99 τρόποι για να πεις μια οχι ενδιαφέρουσα, οχι ιδιαίτερη αλλα καθημερινή ιστορία που βρίθει οχι απο λύπη, στεναχώρια, δέος αλλα απο έξυπνο, αβίαστο, εκλεπτυσμένο χιούμορ.

(Μόλις χρησιμοποίησα τον ένα απο τους 99 τρόπους για την κριτική αυτού του απολαυστικού διαμαντιού που μας αποκαλύπτει την δύναμη που έχει η γλώσσα.)
The premise of this book is simple - a little anecdote about a man on a bus, a story so bland that you wouldn't even put it into your cycle of small talk. This book is not bland because the execution is dazzling. Queneau tells the same story in over a hundred different ways, ranging from Operatic English to Tanka to onomatopoeia to set theory to high art to Cockney slang.

Such a book would normally be untranslatable, and there are some noticeable changes from the original. Cockney slang is a subs
Dec 10, 2015 Junta rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Francophones, lovers of wordplay
Recommended to Junta by: Manny's shelf
I think this is a book that should be read in its original language of French. I loved the idea of this book, but my expectations were perhaps a little too high. The low rating is not the book's fault, but my goddamn own - excuse my (lack of) French.

On a crowded bus at midday, the narrator observes one man accusing another of jostling him deliberately. When a seat is vacated, the first man takes it. Later, in another part of town, the man is spotted again while being advised by a friend to have
Feb 03, 2015 Deepthi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
What makes a good story? Plot, characters or structure? Maybe the stories we enjoy aren’t enjoyable because of its components, maybe they are enjoyable because of the way they were written or told. A good narrator is incredibly important to catch our attention and interest as long as the story lasts, otherwise there is a chance of being misled or left disheartened. What Raymond Queneau brings you in Exercises in Style is a set of 99 narrators; each equally amusing, entertaining and knowledgeable ...more
Vit Babenco
Jun 28, 2016 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
What story can be told about a brief bus ride and a button?
It can be turned into a surreal vision:
“In the centre of the day, tossed among the shoal of travelling sardines in a coleopter with a big white carapace, a chicken with a long, feather-less neck suddenly harangued one, a peace-abiding one, of their number, and its parlance, moist with protest, was unfolded upon the airs. Then, attracted by a void, the fledgling precipitated itself thereunto.
In a bleak, urban desert, I saw it again that s
Jan 04, 2016 [P] rated it did not like it
Shelves: bitch-please

My reaction to books like Raymond Queneau’s Exercises In Style is comparable to my reaction when faced with certain works of conceptual, or modern, art, such as, for example, Martin Kippenberger’s Wittgenstein. What I mean by this is that the enjoyment I derive from them is superficial, is immediate but not long-lasting; in fact, I tend to find equal or greater enjoyment in the concepts or ideas being described to me as I do in experiencing them myself.

To my mind, the most basic pre-
Apr 22, 2012 knig rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, 2012
.... --- .-- -- .- -. -.-- ..-. ..- -.-. -.- .. -. --. - .. -- . ... -.. --- .. .... .- ...- . - --- ... .- -.-- - .... .. ... -... . ..-. --- .-. . .. - ... .. -. -.- ... .. -. ---... .- -- .- -. --- -. .- -... ..- ... .... .- ... .- -... ..- - - --- -. .-.-.-
MJ Nicholls
* Edit: May 13 2011 *

I finally bought a copy of this ingenious little number and read it through again. I think my favourite mode has to be ‘Reactionary,’ where the narrator makes angry pronouncements on the world around him while telling the bus altercation story. It wasn’t as funny the second time around, but nothing ever is, sadly. I looked up some of the more specific verse forms that escaped me on the first read and smiled more knowingly. (A more knowing smile involves greater purchase on t
Dec 25, 2014 Aldrin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On Exercices de Style, considered his masterpiece and most influential work, Raymond Queneau said, “People have tried to see it as an attempt to demolish literature--that was not at all my intention. In any case my intention was merely to produce some exercises; the finished product may possibly act as a kind of rust-remover to literature to help to rid it of some of its scabs. If I’ve been able to contribute a little to this, then I am very proud, especially if I have done it without boring the ...more
This was The Well-Tempered Clavier, but in writing.

Given its status and how loved this book seems to be on GR, I feel somewhat like it’s an epic F.A.I.L on my part to not have been blown away by it. But seriously, guys, I don’t get it.

It’s clever, I’ll give you that. Other than that, it’s mostly gimmicky, sometimes amusing, and occasionally interesting. I liked the episodes rewritten as told by a yokel or in mangled French as spoken by an English person (amusing), as well as the episodes rewri
Oct 18, 2015 Yoana rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Yoana by: господин Иванов, най-добрият учител по литература в света
Начи бате, качвам се в рейса неска по обед, щото бегах от даскало. И вътре, бате, некъв гъз – ама тъп ти казвам, дигна некъв ебати скандала, бате. Били го бутали, ми в рейса кво иска. Вика, вика и избега да седне, бате, казвам ти, пълен гъз.
Към 5, бехме се направили на гъз с френдовете, и се връщам пак с рейса, бате, и гледам оня същия гъз пред Попа с некъв същия като него, бате – и оня: „Аре опраи се бе, глей къв си изсулен”. Пълен шит, бате, казвам ти.

Ко стаа ве лек! Въй, лек
Eddie Watkins
Aug 30, 2016 Eddie Watkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french-fiction
This shames me to say but I was not originally on the bus with Queneau's Exercises in Style, yet I pretended to be, sitting right beside the dude with the long neck and the eccentric hat. I was not being myself, not beating my own drum, passengers stepping all over my feet, but I could not get off the bus. Shamed if I did, shamed if I didn't. So I sat there reading his proper novels, genuinely enjoying them as the bus jostled and my feet hurt and the long neck irked me. Damn sheepish passengers! ...more
Dec 21, 2016 Sakshi rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, references, humour
So pleased by the number of writing styles featured here. I could have never noticed the different styles. Some of my favorites were the subjective side, word-composition, distinguo, free verse, definitional, lipogram (omitted the 'e'), and epistolary.
From distinguo:
"In an S bus (which is not to be confused with a trespass), I saw (not an eyesore) a chap (not a Bath one) wearing a dark soft hat (and not a hat daft sack), which hat was encircled by a plaited cord (and not by an applauded cat). [
Jun 16, 2015 Sophie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Utterly entertaining, full of linguistic games and imaginative variations of the same story.
Riku Sayuj
Aug 25, 2016 Riku Sayuj marked it as on-a-break  ·  review of another edition
Exercises and experiments in learning...
Raymond Queneau tells an innocuous micro-story about a testy guy on a bus, whom later he spots elsewhere. The content of the story is meaningless, and actually the foundation of a series of exercises where the same story is retold in 99 variants. A variable, style, or theme is foregrounded in each entry: biased, reactionary, auditory, gustatory, colors, logical analysis, haiku, etc. Initially, I was charmed by how the shift in emphasis reframes an entire story and makes subsequent entries seem f ...more
I enjoyed this much more in French than in English, and can't find any reason for this except that I must have changed a lot in the three years or so between the readings. I was, I think, much more interested (and convinced) by the central concept and its artistic (as opposed to merely conceptual) merit this time around. The repetitive description of such a mundane event elevates it to something resembling art and allows some very interesting (and often meta) things to be done, such as finishing ...more
Riku Sayuj
Nov 26, 2011 Riku Sayuj rated it it was amazing
Amazing amazing book!
Jim Elkins
Mar 24, 2016 Jim Elkins rated it really liked it
Shelves: french
I returned to Queneau’s "Exercises in Style" in 2012 to help me think about contemporary “conceptual writing” and the unoriginality movement associated with Craig Dworkin, Marjorie Perloff, Kenneth Goldsmith, and others. These remarks start with the contemporary movement, and then I turn to Queneau.

1. The state of constrained writing
Currently rule-bound or constrained writing is associated with the movement broadly known as "conceptual writing," which itself blends several potentially different
Mar 13, 2013 Bruce rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone with an interest in writing, poetry, storytelling, or humor
Recommended to Bruce by: Ian "Marvin" Graye

The Motion Picture



Engine rumbling becoming


A boorish OAF jockeys for a prime position among the enclosing strap-hangers.

Oye! My foot!

Easy there.

Please, young man!

The SMOLDERING HALF-MASCARA'D EYES of BOWLER, himself pressed in five girths down. Watching.


The bus pulls to the curb.


A pensioner rises and exits.

Deftly as a trapeze artist,
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Queneau was born in Le Havre in 1903 and went to Paris when he was 17. For some time he joined André Breton's Surrealist group, but after only a brief stint he dissociated himself. Now, seeing Queneau's work in retrospect, it seems inevitable. The Surrealists tried to achieve a sort of pure expression from the unconscious, without mediation of the author's self-aware "persona." Queneau's texts, on ...more
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