Exercises in Style

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Exercises in Style
1947 hardback edition
Author Raymond Queneau
Original title Exercices de style
Translator Barbara Wright (English)
Illustrator Mario Prassinos
Country France
Language French
Genre Constrained writing, Fiction
Publisher Gallimard
Publication date
Published in English
Media type Print

Exercises in Style (French: Exercices de style), written by Raymond Queneau, is a collection of 99 retellings of the same story, each in a different style. In each, the narrator gets on the "S" bus (now no. 84), witnesses an altercation between a man (a zazou) with a long neck and funny hat and another passenger, and then sees the same person two hours later at the Gare St-Lazare getting advice on adding a button to his overcoat. The literary variations recall the famous 33rd chapter of the 1512 rhetorical guide by Desiderius Erasmus, Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style.


The book has been translated into the following languages :

Because, by their nature, the various retellings of the story employ fine subtleties of the French language, translations into these other languages are adaptations as well as being translations.

Styles employed[edit]

The English translation by Barbara Wright (reprinted in paperback in 1981) consists of the tale retold in the following 'styles', where the original has been adapted (rather than translated) the original title is given in italics following :-

Other adaptations[edit]

  • A short story, An Exercise in Style, written in 2008 by popular blogger Obi Okorougo was inspired and dedicated to Raymond Queneau.
  • An homage in graphic novel form, 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style by Matt Madden, was published in 2005.
  • A typographic interpretation of the German version of Exercices de Style, "Stilübungen – visuelle Interpretationen" by the graphic designer Marcus Kraft, was published in 2006.
  • In Croatia (when it was part of SFR Yugoslavia), Tonko Maroević and Tomislav Radić adapted Exercices de Style (transferring the plot from the 1940s Paris to modern Zagreb) into a stage play for two actors, which has been played since 1968. Pero Kvrgić and Lela Margitić, who have been playing the only two roles since January 1970, hold a Guinness World Record for the Longest Theatrical Run with the Same Cast. They received a plaque in 2009.[2]
  • Inspired by Queneau's book, the first issue of uprightdown.com (2009) presented a single plot, which was retold in different forms and media by multiple participants.
  • Following the formal example of Queneau, Paul Hoover of the United States published Sonnet 56 (2009), which consists of 56 stylistic versions of Shakespeare's sonnet 56, including "Villanelle," "Qasida," "Course Description," and "Ballad."
  • The same story was told in more than hundred new styles in Russian by Tatiana Bonch-Osmolovskaya, Sergey Fedin, Sergey Orlov and others [1] The styles includes combinatorial techniques, contemporary jargons and visuals poems.