- Birthday, Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Raymond Queneau on Stories, Memory, Inspiration, and More

 

Happy birthday, Raymond Queneau! Here are some quotes from the writer:

 

“Being or nothing, that is the question. Ascending, descending, coming, going, a man does so much that in the end he disappears.”

 

“True stories deal with hunger, imaginary ones with love.”

 

“The really inspired person is never inspired: he’s always inspired: he doesn’t go looking for inspiration and he doesn’t get up in arms about artistic technique.”

 

“I don’t know how long I stayed in that particular place; my poor memory is not a chronometer nor a movie camera nor a phonograph nor any other sort of finely tuned machine. It’s more like nature with holes empty spaces hidden nooks and crannies with rivers that trickle away so that you can never dip your foot in the same water twice and with patches of light and darkness.”

 

“I’m not used to writing […] I’d quite like to write a tragedy or a sonnet or an ode but there’s the rules. They put me off.”

 

“Rules cease to exist once they have outlived their value, but forms live on eternally. There are forms of the novel which impose on the suggested topic all the virtues of the Number. Born of the very expression and of the diverse aspects of the tale, connected by nature with the guiding idea, daughter and mother of all the elements that it polarizes, a structure develops, which transmits to the works the last reflections of Universal Light and the last echoes of the Harmony of Worlds.”

 

“The world is not what it seems—but it isn’t anything else, either.”

 

“Why […] why should one not tolerate this life, since so little suffices to deprive one of it? So little brings it into being, so little brightens it, so little blights it, so little bears it away. Otherwise, who would tolerate the blows of fate and the humiliations of a successful career, the swindling of grocers, the prices of butchers, the water of milkmen, the irritation of parents, the fury of teachers, the bawling of sergeant-majors, the turpitude of the beasts, the lamentations of the dead-beats, the silence of infinite space, the smell of cauliflower or the passivity of the wooden horses on a merry-g0-round, were it not for his knowledge that the bad and proliferative behaviour of certain minute cells (gesture) or the trajectory of a bullet traced by an involuntary, irresponsible, anonymous individual might unexpectedly come and cause all these cares to evaporate into the blue heavens.”

 

“I’ll pun him so many puns that even his arrogance will finally be expunged.”

 

“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, featherless 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 selfsame day, drinking the cup of humiliation offered by a lowly button.”

 

“In this new novel, executed with his accustomed brio, the famous novelist X, to whom we are already indebted for so many masterpieces, has decided to confine himself to very clear-cut characters who act in an atmosphere which everybody, both adults and children, can understand. The plot revolves, then, round the meeting on a bus of the hero of this story and of a rather enigmatic character who picks a quarrel with the first person he meets. In the final episode we see this mysterious individual listening with the greatest attention to the advice of a friend, a past master of sartorial art. The whole makes a charming impression which the novelist X has etched with rare felicity.”

 

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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