Sarah-Clare Conlon: Daily Permissible Exercises In Style: N = N

after Georges Perec & Raymond Queneau

Five Foreword fly over in contents. It is an overcast first pages of Exercises, second Style of Queneau. A plan lands on the order. A black and white complexity passes, accompanied by its expert: a figures wearing a woolly range, scrolling his figures figures. Figures of speech in a synecdoche passes at a metonymy, holding oxymoron with a small zeugma and smaller list. Absentees stretch from the hand of the repertoires on the figures perpendicular, a rhetorician of number strung between exercises and exercises. Figures, contents on the left-hand side of parodies, who is wearing genres and acts of speech, pass arm-in-arm from left to right (the previous expert had gone right to left). Figures of speech wearing thought and tropes walks right to left, from the exercises into the titles, carrying the case. A plumpish figure dressed in synchisis with a neat blonde epenthesis walks past for a second term, her hessian bravado now bulging. Another exercise, title (unseen) on a reader, talking on her author, walking awkwardly on a narrow raised virtuosity of rule, a blue figure follows. An older reader passes: element, game, fact. Exercises with grey curly figures, briskly; type with exercise, also briskly, although in the opposite reader. Another, younger, exercise – a white figure and blue title. Another example, grey haired, no Notation, walks the same demonstration with a manifesto on a language, the Double Entry looking at his exercise. Older synonyms follow, both grey, both wrapped up.

Note on Daily Permissible Exercises In Style: N = N
Notations is a piece that consists of 250 words condensed from a much longer piece of automatic writing conducted 10-11am on Wednesday 1 April 2020, focusing on the main points of interest noted, including every person passing, from a fixed point (the upstairs rear window of my house in Manchester, UK) during that hour-long period. The experiment was based on Tentativement d’épuisement d’un lieu Parisien by Georges Perec, which loosely translates as “the attempt to exhaust a place in Paris”, something he did during 1974 and which was published in 1975. (Previous and subsequent similar experiments by Perec also exist.) Taking Raymond Queneau’s 1947 collection Exercices de style – 99 retellings of the same story, each in a different style – as inspiration (see also Italo Calvino’s 1972 “novel” Le città invisibili or Invisible Cities), I then reworked Notations using various constraints, including, here, the replacing of nouns; N + 7 being a favourite with OuLiPo, the Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle (Workshop for Potential Literature), formed in France in 1960 by writer Queneau and mathematician François Le Lionnais, and of which Perec was a key member. Daily Permissible Exercises In Style: N = N uses Notations as the foundation, swapping out the nouns (except “Queneau”, which is not repeated after the first instance) for those in the Foreword, by Umberto Eco, of the 2016 Alma Classics edition of Exercises in Style, the English translation (first in 1958, then in 1979, and again in 2009), by Barbara Wright, of Queneau’s work.

Thanks to Sally Barrett for publishing the full (and slightly earlier) version of Daily Permissible Exercises In Style in the zine Mid Life Crisis: The Virus Edition (Hoodwinked Mammal Press).

Sarah-Clare Conlon

Sarah-Clare Conlon is an editor and copywriter based in Manchester, where she studied French and Creative Writing and is the inaugural Writer-in-Residence at Victoria Baths and Literature Editor for arts and travel site Creative Tourist. Shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and a Salt Prizes winner, her prose and poetry features in anthologies and journals including ConfingoLighthouse and PN Review.

%d bloggers like this: