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 another button sewn onto his overcoat. Exercises in Style retells this apparently unremarkable tale ninety-nine times, employing a variety of styles, ranging from sonnet to cockney to mathematical formula. Too funny to be merely a pedantic thesis, this virtuoso set of themes and variations is a linguistic rustremover, a guide to literary forms and a demonstration of imagery and inventiveness.
Witty, playful, ingenious, it manages to transcend its own sophistication by a sort of verbal slapstick which Miss Wright translated into pure Groucho Marxism. * The Guardian * Midway between Lewis Carroll and Jacques Derrida, in a deliriously witty dimension of its own, lies Queneau's Exercises in Style... Barbara Wright's dazzling translation matches this oddball classic step by step, pun by pun. * The Independent * A pointless anecdote told in 99 different ways, or a work of genius in a brilliant translation by Barbara Wright. In fact it's both. Endlessly fascinating and very funny. -- Philip Pullman I've loved Exercises in Style for years. This translation is impeccable, extraordinary. -- Philip Pullman