MJ Nicholls's Reviews > The Blue Flowers

The Blue Flowers by Raymond Queneau
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May 21, 12

bookshelves: novels, oulipians, the-art-of-loathing, pernod-and-gauloises
Read from May 19 to 22, 2012

Queneau’s novels and poetry have found their way into English and have been kept in print by a Reich of mostly American, and several British presses, among them Dalkey Archive, Atlas Press, NYRB Classics, Oneworld Classics, New Directions, Carcanet, Sun and Moon Press, University of Illinois Press, University of Nebraska Press, and Penguin Classics. There are (at last count) twenty books of Queneau’s work in English—a couple out-of-print or expensive—but largely all readily available for your reading delectation. This is both a pleasure and a curse. Twelve of Queneau’s eighteen novels are available, along with six collections of his poetry and two miscellaneous story and curio collections. This begs the question: is there too much Queneau in print?

For a largely unknown (to English readers) “avant-garde” writer, twenty seems like an undue surfeit. There are some writers whose best works are only translated while the duds remain in the original language, meaning we only read the best of their work and clamour for more, unaware the other material doesn’t bear translating as it will only allow us to cast critical light on our beloved hero(es). This is certainly true of Raymond. For The Blue Flowers is a turkey, no doubt about it. (Except so it seems for an absolutely rapturous Italian readership—the Italian translation was done by their national bard Italo Calvino). I wanted this tiresome absurdist rubbish to end more than I wanted Patch Adams to end and my slow Robin Williams-induced death to follow.
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Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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message 1: by Nate D (last edited May 21, 2012 07:44PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nate D And here I was seriously hoping to hear how wrong I was. On the other hand, it's highly reassuring that I can only go up from here.

Oh, and glad to see that it swam the ocean effectively, in any event.


message 2: by MJ (new) - rated it 1 star

MJ Nicholls Yes, thank you! I forgot to put a formal thanks in the review since it was late and I was irritated. To be bipartisan for a moment, it is possible I'm simply fed up with Queneau. Plenty of his books are like this but, you know, better.


message 3: by knig (new)

knig I've only read 'exercises in style', which was fantastic, really, but based on both your reviews I think I better stop with Queanaeu while I'm ahead.


message 4: by MJ (new) - rated it 1 star

MJ Nicholls Woah hold on there. There are at least ten brilliant Queneaus out there. Zazie in the Metro, Pierrot Mon Ami, The Flight of Icarus . . . all essential!


message 5: by Geoff (new) - added it

Geoff Yeah don't judge too quickly, Queneau is absolutely essential to understanding where French literature went in the second half of the 20th century...


message 6: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy I hated Zazie, should I give up?


message 7: by Geoff (new) - added it

Geoff Yes, on everything, not just Queneau. (kidding...)


message 8: by Jimmy (new)

Jimmy ouch! ;)


message 9: by MJ (new) - rated it 1 star

MJ Nicholls Zazie sets the tone for most of Queneau's work, so maybe.


Nate D Yeah, Knig-o and Jimmy -- un-thrilled as I was also, I'm still excited to read some of the other better Queneaus, of which there appear to be many. I think this was really late in his career, perhaps too late.


message 11: by MJ (new) - rated it 1 star

MJ Nicholls He focused more on poetry and assorted Oulipo hijinks after this, though his last novel Icarus is one of the first "characters escape from their author" pomo novels after At Swim-Two-Birds. And before Mulligan Stew.


message 12: by Rayroy (last edited Jul 02, 2013 04:58PM) (new)

Rayroy Is this the wrong place to start if one(Me) hasn't read any books by Raymond Queneau?


message 13: by Rayroy (new)

Rayroy Gee "Patch Adams" made me cry.


message 14: by MJ (last edited Jul 03, 2013 12:50AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

MJ Nicholls Rayroy wrote: "Is this the wrong place to start if one(Me) hasn't read any books by Raymond Queneau?"

Yes. Yes. Yes. Although if Patch Adams made you cry you really should not be reading any books at all. I suggest Zazie, Flight, or Pierrot. All magnifique.


message 15: by Rayroy (new)

Rayroy MJ wrote: "Rayroy wrote: "Is this the wrong place to start if one(Me) hasn't read any books by Raymond Queneau?"

Yes. Yes. Yes. Although if Patch Adams made you cry you really should not be reading any books..."


I'm a sucker for Life Time type dramas, and can't stand movies like "Paris, Texas" .


Spyros It's my first Queneau as well and I 've been very unimpressed so far, it's at least reassuring to hear I am not reading his best.


message 17: by MJ (new) - rated it 1 star

MJ Nicholls Read any Queneau but this one. I consider myself a slavish adoring Queneauite, but even I have to say this one is a truckle of turd.


message 18: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Bursey The Sunday of Life is another good place to start.


Spyros Thanks guys! For the time being Boris Vian who I am (re)reading concurrently is a very welcome repose from Queneau's turkey, that I am still soldiering on with, but probably won't for long.


Yigru Zeltil "For a largely unknown (to English readers) “avant-garde” writer" ?!?!?!?
I can't believe what I sometimes read on Goodreads...


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