raymond queneau


Entry 2176 of Raymond Queneau’s journal quotes this dialogue from the comic strip Pogo, and although it is atypical of Queneau’s practice to cite the American English, it is altogether typical and definitive of his journal entries. Condensed in the extreme is the theme of consciousness that shadows the mind in thought, but that’s not the half of it. To say “I’ve been thinking” is to say, in effect, “I’ve been wondering,” but as with so much assumed to be self-evident, the meaning of “think” turns out not to be so and is misinterpreted as “analysis of grounds of concepts.” That Queneau has snagged this gem of semantic slippage allows us to glimpse his dedicated inquiry into the raveling of sense as language makes and unmakes thought.

Linguistic snafus, translation caught in between languages, a dictionary of received ideas to stupefy the reader—these are a few of the demonstrable instrumentalities to be found in Queneau’s fiction and poetry.

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